Coheed and Cambria
Friday, August 2, 2012
Better than: Spending the evening with any other '80s metal band, and arguably any metal band period.
Reliving past glories with tours that focus on classic albums or eras has become a standard practice for bands across all genres looking to boost ticket sales. Legendary British metal outfit Iron Maiden was well ahead of the curve when it first started alternating tours promoting newer material with retrospective jaunts over a decade ago, but the iconic group has long proven that it don't need no stinking gimmicks to put asses in seats. Ever since charismatic singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith returned to the fold back in 1999, Maiden's reputation as a must-see live juggernaut has only grown.
As good as the newer material has been from the reconvened classic line-up - with '90s holdover Janick Gers helping give those albums a potent three-guitar attack - the Maiden England Tour stop at the Shoreline Amphitheatre promised a wealth of vintage gems Friday night. It seemed most of the die-hard Maiden fans were either stuck in traffic or pounding beers in the parking lot when support act Coheed and Cambria took the stage with the pre-dusk sun still blazing.
The proggy, post-hardcore quartet had supporters scattered through the half-full venue as it chugged through the complex riffs of "No World for Tomorrow" and "Gravemakers and Gunslingers," but the high-pitched, emotive vocals of leader Claudio Sanchez left most of the early arriving heshers scratching their heads instead of banging them. The group sensibly played to the metal-minded crowd, unleashing a muscular cover of Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" that incited an enthusiastic singalong and spotlighted the shredding prowess of Sanchez and fellow guitarist Travis Stever. In the end, the audience would likely have given a better reception to the grim theatrics and '70s hits of Maiden's East Coast touring partner Alice Cooper than the lukewarm applause that greeted Coheed and Cambria's set.
When the headliner's imminent start was signaled by their standard lead-in track (UFO's "Doctor Doctor") blaring over the PA, the full house of Maiden-T-shirt-clad fans was on its feet, roaring and ready. Built around the set list from the 1988 concert video documenting the tour for the band's conceptual opus Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, the show kicked off with that album's dramatic opener "Moonchild." Dickinson was joined by a chorus of thousands as he sang the tune's intro lyrics over simple acoustic guitar: "Seven deadly sins/ Seven ways to win/ Seven holy paths to hell/ And your trip begins."
And begin it did as the band - and the first salvo of what would be a fiery evening heavy on the pyrotechnics - exploded onstage. Propelled by galloping, fleet-fingered bass playing of founder Steve Harris, the one-two punch of "Moonchild" and hooky arena anthem "Can I Play with Madness" gave Dickenson ample chance to show that his powerful pipes remain undiminished as he raced back and forth on the elevated walkway above the main stage.
Sprinting about the elaborate stage set based on the tundra motif of Seventh Son's cover art (when he wasn't leaping over or balancing on the stage monitors, which were made up to look like blocks of ice), the singer should have been hunched over taking oxygen during the recorded introduction to a ferocious version of "The Prisoner." Instead, the frenzied crowd response to the Number of the Beast rarity only spurred Dickinson to an ever more energetic delivery. Guitarists Dave Murray and Smith were plenty active as they churned out the meaty riffs and wailing solos that are the cornerstones to Maiden's sound, but compared to the perpetual motion of Dickinson, Harris and the flashy, guitar-twirling stunts of Gers, the two veteran axmen were practically standing still.
There were some other moments of downtime between songs, during which the singer joked about his uncertainty about the show's location ("Are we in San Francisco? Oakland? Where the fuck are we, Shoreline?"). He also apologized that venue was too small to accommodate the band's full stage set before waving his hand with a derisive laugh: "We've got enough pyro. We'll just burn it down so they can build a proper one."
It was hard to imagine the scope of an even larger set. Besides the expansive backdrop that scrolled through different widescreen reproductions of longtime Maiden artist Derek Riggs' indelible work for each song, the stage concealed large animatronic figures that emerged at key points. A demonic Minotaur flanked by massive spouts of flame surfaced for "Number of the Beast," while a super-sized statue of Seventh Son's central cover image throbbed and twitched to life, fire licking from mascot Eddie's lobotomized head during a climactic take on "Iron Maiden."
Setlist and more info on next page