Steve Harris is not content with selling nearly 100 million albums, playing to packed out stadiums around the world and re-releasing just about everything ever made with Iron Maiden written on it to make a few extra quid. So, he has decided to take his solo/side project British Lion on tour around Europe while the rest of us slowly count down the days until the next time we get to see Maiden. 70, since you asked.
Anyway, the tour rolled into the UK and the Islington Academy, which I imagine had a nicer name before it became O2’s bitch. A rare occasion to see Steve Harris in such an intimate venue. For perspective, there were around 250 people in attendance, and I'm seeing Maiden later this year in a 22000 capacity arena and a 60000 football stadium.
There had been a debate, at times pretty heated, on the Iron Maiden Fan Club message board about whether or not it was acceptable to wear a Maiden t-shirt for the gig. Those against argued that as British Lion is a totally different project and out of respect fans shouldn't rub Maiden in the faces of the rest of the group. While those in favour suggested that the no many people would be attending if Steve Harris wasn't there. I could see both sides, but given that unless I wear a Maiden shirt I’d be forced to go topless I decided to tone it down with the latest Fan Club shirt.
Out of respect to musicians, I should say a word about the support band, Zico Chain. There was a support band called Zico Chain.
Then it was time for main event of the evening. In keeping with this being a totally separate project from Iron Maiden, British Lion decided to use the same guitar tech, drum tech and sound engineer (two of whom wore t-shirts from the most recent tour). Steve had his usual bass tech (also from Maiden) but that’s just a nerdy point.
The gig was a slow starter, even though the first song is one of the strongest on the album. The vast majority of the crowd, decked out in their Maiden gig attire seemed content just to watch proceedings. Actually a more accurate description might be that they were happy to watch Steve. For the first few songs the only significant action in the audience was when he went on to the drum riser at which point 100s of phones emerged and started clicking.
|Quick, there he is. Get your camera out. Oh you already have.|
I found myself being sucked in to the same way of thinking. At one point early on I even thought to myself “I wish this guy would get out of the way, he’s blocking my view of Steve.” Once I got over the fact that I felt slightly like I was committing adultery it was a very enjoyable gig. The musicianship was tight, and the songs sounded better live than they did on the album. Steve was clearly having the time of his life, even if he did look a bit embarrassed when the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for his introduction.
Speaking of the quality of the tracks, my highlight was Karma Killer (as it is on the album) closely followed by A World Without Heaven and Us Against The World. An honourable mention also for Lost Worlds, particularly the very moody bit at the end. Not all of the songs would immediately jump out as being Maiden-esque, but when you pay attention to the bass sections the comparisons are pretty clear (shocking, I know).
Richard Taylor did a pretty good job as the frontman, even is his command at the start of most songs to “put your flipping (ish) hands in the air” is a bit cliché. The older blonde guitarist reminded me of a kind of Nicko McBrain/Janick Gers love child the other guitarist looked a complete twit in his woolly hat and comedy glasses and the drummer was almost unnoticeable (I think that’s a good sign, a bit like a referee).
The overall impression of the gig was definitely that it was acting as a warm up/time filler for Maiden fans. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but the songs probably deserve to be better. In fact, a few of them deserved to be on the next Maiden record, if they can ever stop releasing their back catalogue. It was a little like eating a vegetarian meal you would usually have with meat, once you realise there is no meat it is possible to enjoy it, just probably not as much.
This Is My God
The Chosen Ones
These Are The Hands
Guineas And Crowns
Us Against The World
World Without Heaven
Do You Want It
Let it Roll
Eyes Of The Young