Iron Maiden in 3Arena, Dublin, 6 May 2017

Everything is already in place for this one to be a memorable night. Long queues snake through the barriers even in the run-up to the main act, with people of varying age groups in various stages of ossification blathering away about Iron Maiden gigs past and imminent. Inside the 3Arena, it’s a sell-out – a bustling, boozy atmosphere and an air of excitement that’s almost as tangible as the tang of fart vapours and the smell of old leather. Not even the mighty Black Sabbath in the same venue a few months previous had this sense of anticipation.

The fun starts early. A corner of one of the black sheets that cover the entire stage build comes loose, unveiling Nicko McBrain’s considerable drumkit to a massive cheer; bettered only by the one received by the roadie who appears to reupholster the fallen material. Over the chatter then, UFO’s Doctor Doctor blares out – just to focus the attention – before the room darkens and the stage is unveiled to reveal a smoking Mayan-themed platform. Flames shoot from the top, and the Irish stop on the final leg of the ‘Book of Souls’ tour is ignited.

Bruce Dickinson’s voice rings out over the empty stage. But wait…a shadowy figure stands atop the platform behind McBrain’s drumkit, hunched over a smoking faux-stone cauldron-type thing. If Eternity Should Fail brings the rest of the band out, before Dickinson legs it down from his perch and out onto the stage, aiming for the monitors, and taking a flying jump off them to signal his arrival proper. He’s an indefatigable host, zipping from one end of the stage to the next and to the wings of the raised platforms and back, hurling a mic stand around and generally taking a hands-on approach to captaining the show.

Then there’s Janick Gers. The guitarist equals the singer in the theatrics department. Two seemingly empty speaker cabinets sit at either side of the stage, whose sole purpose appears to be for Gers to aim kicks at, or rest one leg at a near-ninety degree angle upon in between his windmilling and traversing. That’s not to say the rest of Iron Maiden can be accused of complacency. Solos are shared throughout, and the snooker rules seem to be in play. That is, at any given moment at least one of Maiden’s band members’ feet remains on solid ground at any given time. At all others, anything is likely to be going on, with people running around the stage and hopping off monitors. This goes on solidly for the entire set. Nicko McBrain is the only man sitting relatively still, and only by virtue of the fact that he has to.

The pyrotechnics are back in action for Powerslave, with Dickinson in a wrestling mask, and the flag-bearing Eddie backdrop is unveiled for The Trooper. Bruce struts around the platform waving a Union Jack, and it’s testament to the fact that everyone appreciates that this is all spectacle that there is no discernible consternation towards the offending flag. He drapes it over Gers from above, who ends up with his head through a hole in it – no, this is arch comedy, nothing more.

Dickinson’s preamble to The Book Of Souls sets the scene – “a bit of butchery, bit of savagery, a bit of mass murder.” Flames shoot from the rear of stage in tandem with the power chords, Bruce is back up footering about at that cauldron, and when the songs slip into double-time you can’t deny the energy. A big 10-foot zombie Eddie lumbers in from the wings, waving a stick and rubbing his crotch. Gers nutmegs zombie Eddie; running between his legs and thus rendering him foolish. Bruce then rips his heart out and, suitably humiliated, he shuffles miserably backstage. The cauldron thing is spitting flame now too.

A wholly expected mass singalong accompanies each riff of Fear of The Dark, and Dickinson’s “Scream it for me, Dublin!” is superfluous. After a few token boots to the speakers from Gers, it’s into a raucous Iron Maiden with an inflatable Eddie looming behind McBrain. Gers hurls his guitar skyward and swings it around by the strap, finally dumping it on the floor and kicking it around nonchalantly. Gers loves to kick stuff, fucking loves it. A giant inflatable goat-headed Satan with a thousand-yard stare is next up for The Number of The Beast, arms folded and swaying slightly as if he’s been down for a few pre-gig jars on the MV Cill Airne along with the rest of the crowd.

Pointing out various flags in the audience, Dickinson praises the “worldwide fraternity of Iron Maiden people” before hitting on a more pertinent topic. “The point! What’s the fucking point? It’s a cool fucking place in Dublin that’s the fucking Point!” He’s right, is Bruce. This site will never be the o2, or the 3Arena, or whatever the next corporate nonsense turns out to be. It’s the Point Depot, and Iron Maiden haven’t forgotten, even if you have. Wasted Years closes the night out, and what a night it was – sheer entertainment. Rock shows don’t come much better and Dickinson is a man who knows his audience. He boils it down to the bare essentials, one, some, or all of which applied on this visit to Dublin’s Dockland’s: “Shag yourself stupid, drink yourself insensible, listen to Iron Maiden.”