On September 4th, Iron Maiden released the mammoth double CD The Book of Souls and they will inevitably go on tour and make a DVD of it. I’ve been digging deep into their discography recently (as you may have noticed), and I’ve been once again reminded that if there’s one thing that Maiden is absolutely terrible at, it’s playing deep cuts live. I suspect that there are some reasons for this—having been one of roughly twenty people in the entire crowd that knew “The Clansman” when I saw them play in 2000 in St. Paul—but I have stopped purchasing Iron Maiden live records, because they all have essentially the same track listing. But Maiden has fifteen full-length studio records, and there are dozens of songs they’ve never even played live.
So I have a solution: It’s called The Beast Cuts Deep Tour and it’s an Iron Maiden nerd tour, that will take place in clubs throughout the world. That’s right, not stadiums, but clubs. And you’ll have to prove your nerd-cred to get in, so no beer throwing apes spend the whole night screaming “RUN TO THE HILLS!” And the setlist? Oh, this setlist is going to be epic and deep, with not a single song on Iron Maiden‘s regular hit list. It’s also over two hours, includes an encore, and I’ve even narrowed it down to a Top 10(ish) list that’s pushing 1,800 words. And, no offense to the boys or anything, but after hearing “Wrathchild” live for the 1,173rd time, I’m sure that long-time fans will be happy to hear some of these for the very first time! No doubt this would be the best damned Iron Maiden tour of all time.
C’mon Smallwood, book it already!
My Top 10(ish) Wish List Iron Maiden Deep Cuts Live:
#(ish): “Purgatory” (Killers [1981 – Last played live: 1981]): Maiden hasn’t played this song since 1981. This is a fact that I find to be mind boggling. “Purgatory” is easily my favorite song from Killers, with an absolutely hooky chorus and an unforgettable riff to get the whole thing started off. Not only is this song absolutely built for audience participation, but it’s got some of the coolest, stripped down guitar work the band ever featured in a song. I’m honestly surprised that this song didn’t become a live staple over the years.
#10: “Mother Russia” (No Prayer for the Dying [1989 – Never played live]): No Prayer for the Dying is not a record that has gotten a lot of live love and there are reasons for that, I think. There is, however, one absolutely shining track on the record and it’s the album closer “Mother Russia.” Stubbornly, Maiden has never once played the song live. And sure, it’s a rangy epic, with a long, moody intro that… wait a second, so is half of the band’s discography after 1992 and if they can play songs about Benjamin Breeg, they can play “Mother Russia” live! And let me tell you something, a lot of those songs don’t have a bridge as epic as this song. Combined with its political relevance for the year, and tone that made it sound like the one song from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son that got held over, this song would be amazing to hear the band play live.
#9: “The Fallen Angel” (Brave New World [2000 – Last played live: 2001]): Easily one of the best songs on Brave New World, “The Fallen Angel” has only ever been played live nine times, all of them in 2000 and 2001. This song would be an amazing live track, with H’s drop-D riff mongering, and a hooky-as-hell chorus that I can’t get enough of. Honestly, I remember being shocked that this song wasn’t on the setlist when I saw the band on the Brave New World Tour, and I’ve always wondered exactly why they dropped it. Either way, it’ll be quite cathartic to finally see it live!
#8: “The Prophecy”: One of my favorite songs ever, “The Prophecy” has never been played by Iron Maiden in a live concert. There are reasons for this: the intro and the outro are definitely studio material, to be sure. And I can see why the band didn’t want to try to mess around with that too much, but I have trouble imagining that this wouldn’t be an absolutely gripping song live. The bridges are perfect for guitar swinging, and with a little vocal help (I could help! I could help!) from the band, the vocal interchange wouldn’t be an issue at all. Hell, with three guitarists, they could now absolutely pull off the transitions at the end of the song live. They’ve got everything they need to play this marvelous song live. Dat acoustic outro…
#7: “When Two Worlds Collide” (Virtual XI [1998 – Last played live: 1998]: Dat acoustic outro could go right into the opening salvos of one of Virtual XI‘s best tracks (written by Murray and Bayley). I gotta say, there’s actually a live version of this track done by Blaze’s solo band on a later live record that was pretty damned amazing, and I’m sure that Bruce could make this song sound really great. Plus, with a bit of work, the three guitars could really spice up some of the harmonies and knock this one out of the park. And that guitar melody lead is the perfect mass crowd singalong moment (à la “Fear of the Dark”) and deserves another chance to be sung aloud by mad Maiden fans.
#6: “Face in the Sand” (Dance of Death [2003 – Never played live]): That Iron Maiden has literally never played “Face in the Sand” live is stunning. In terms of the band’s modern records, this song may be one of the finest they’ve ever crafted. Bruce’s lyrics are stunning, and the guitar work and build are the thing that would make for amazing live music. Furthermore, unlike a “Como Estais Amigos” or “Remember Tomorrow,” “Face in the Sand” is heavy and engaging as hell. It’s a clear live hit, and I am shocked the band has never even given it a shot. “So I watch and I wait and I pray for a deep cut, an end to Wrathchild and Angry Metal Guy’s misery…”
#5: “Judgement of Heaven” (The X Factor [1995 – Never played live]): I have always had a soft spot for “Judgement of Heaven,” and it’s a song that has never gotten any love from anyone ever anywhere in the world. I mean, seriously, read the comments on this blog to get a feel for what people think of anything recorded between 1994 and 1998 by Iron Maiden. Still, I love this song; there’s something brutally honest about it, and moreover, I think it would do well in a live setting. I know I’d be screaming my lungs out. “Allll of myyy liiiife…”
#4: “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” (Somewhere in Time [1986 – Last played live 1986]): “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” has the honor of being the only Iron Maiden song to only have ever been played a single time. Why this is the case, I have no idea, but the band played it on the opening night of the tour in support of Somewhere in Time and never played live again. But for me it seems like a clear live song, with a trademark gallop, a fantastic opening and an epic chorus. I can only imagine Bruce prancing around in his ’80s futuristic tights screaming “RUUUUN ON AND OOOOOON!”
#3: “Montségur” (Dance of Death [2003 – Never played live]): I think everyone in Maiden is secretly mad at Janick Gers for being the guy who writes the most consistent music in the 2000s. That’s the only reason I can come up with for them not playing any of his songs live. “The Pilgrim,” “The Alchemist,” “The Legacy,” and, most surprisingly, “Montségur,” which is Dance of Death‘s best track by a mile (though, tied with “Face in the Sand”). This song is a barn burner, with a riff that makes me want to head bang and a beautiful chorus. I would go absolutely apeshit if they knocked this song out live, because it’s one of the best songs that Maiden has ever produced.
#2: “Alexander the Great” (Somewhere in Time [1986 – Never played live]): Dave Murray once said, in the build up to the tour for Brave New World, that he wanted to play “Alexander the Great” live because now that they had three guitars he figured they could pull it off. Instead, it’s “Iron Maiden” and “Wrathchild” every night, and “Alexander the Great” has never been played live all these 15 years and hundreds of concerts later. Which is a shame, because it’s among the band’s best epics and also among their most progressive. While the lyrics are slightly akin to an encyclopedia entry, the riffing, guitar solos and epic builds are among the best that the band ever produced and I have trouble imagining that it wouldn’t translate beautifully live.
#1: “Flash of the Blade” (Powerslave [1984 – Never played live]): I get that this song is hard to play, but with three guitars and literally being the most powerful band in metal that didn’t cut their hair and try to make alternative rock, you’d think they’d’ve taken the opportunity to play “Flash of the Blade” live. Sure, Bruce doesn’t want to stab people anymore, now he just wants to fly them around (… which raises all sorts of questions), but that’s hardly not a reason to break out this beautiful gem and serenade die-hard fans with a song that they never thought they’d hear live.
And for your consideration, the whole damned setlist that I’d have them play! You’ll notice it makes an excellent playlist to write ridiculous album retrospectives to.
1. “Transylvania” (Iron Maiden [1980 – Last played live: 1993])
2. “Purgatory” (Killers [1981 – Last played live: 1981])
3. “The Fugitive” (Fear of the Dark [1992 – Never played live])
4. “Mother Russia” (No Prayer for the Dying [1989 – Never played live])
5. “The Pilgrim” (A Matter of Life and Death [2006 – Last played live: 2006])
6. “The Fallen Angel” (Brave New World [2000 – Last played live: 2001])
7. “The Prophecy” (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son [1988 – Never played live])
8. “When Two Worlds Collide” (Virtual XI [1998 – Last played live: 1998])
9. “Public Enema Number One” (No Prayer for the Dying [1990 – Last played live: 1991])
10. “Isle of Avalon” (The Final Frontier [2010 – Never played live])
11. “Still Life” (Piece of Mind [1983 – Last played live: 1988])
12. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” (Somewhere in Time [1986 – Last played live: 1986])
13. “Judgement of Heaven” (The X Factor [1995 – Never played live])
14. “Face in the Sand” (Dance of Death [2003 – Never played live])
15. “Como Estais Amigos” (Virtual XI [1998 – Never played live])
16. “To Tame a Land” (Piece of Mind [1983 – Last played live: 1983])
17. “The Alchemist” (The Final Frontier [2010 – Never played live])
18. “Montségur” (Dance of Death [2003 – Never played live])
19. “Infinite Dreams” (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son [1988 – Last played live: 1988])
20. “Alexander the Great” (Somewhere in Time [1986 – Never played live])
21. “Flash of the Blade” (Powerslave [1984 – Never played live])
22. “Children of the Damned” (Number of the Beast [1982 – Last played live: 2009])