The members of Iron Maiden are still troopers on the road.
The veteran British metal band will Tuesday make its third appearance in Winnipeg since 2008 when it brings its Maiden England tour to the MTS Centre.
The show is different from its two most recent appearances, but similar to its May 23, 1988, concert at the Winnipeg Arena when the band toured supporting its then just released album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
The current tour by the sextet -- vocalist Bruce Dickinson, bassist Steve Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers -- used the Seventh Son tour as a template before modifying it slightly to create a different dynamic than the original trek, Smith explained during a phone interview last week.
In recent years the band has been playing "historical" sets between tours supporting new albums.
"A few years ago we did a whole tour and played our whole new album (The Final Frontier) live, so it's not like we do it every time we tour," Smith says. "This is like a little thanks to the fans by playing all the stuff like Run to the Hills and all the well-known songs in the same set. We don't do it every time so it's a special thing."
Iron Maiden released its self-titled debut album in 1980 and by the time Seventh Son came out in 1988 it was one of the biggest metal bands in the world thanks to now classics such as The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind and Powerslave and live spectacles, such as the World Slavery Tour, documented on the double live album, Live After Death.
Seventh Son marked a departure for the band musically, though: it was the first album to use keyboards (their 1986 album Somewhere in Time used synthesizer) and its first concept album, which was based on folklore that the seventh son born to a seventh son would have mystical gifts and paranormal powers.
Smith would leave Iron Maiden for a decade following the Seventh Son tour and vocalist Dickinson quit in 1993. Both returned in 1999 and the band -- with Smith's replacement Gers still in the fold -- has released four albums since and arguably has become more popular than ever.
Here's what Smith had to say about the tour, the setlist and more.
RW: Why did you decide to remount the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son tour?
AS: We did quite a big tour with the Final Frontier album and that was great, so I suppose just to revisit some of those songs. There was some material we really enjoy playing from that time so we thought why don't we try to recreate the atmosphere from that tour -- the Seventh Son stage set. Maybe some younger fans out there had never seen that show or heard those songs live, so we thought it would be a cool idea.
Some of the current set list is from that tour and the Maiden England concert video, did you go back and watch it again before the tour started?
Not really. To be honest, it's a little bit hard, it's like looking back at your high school pictures when you're wearing clothes that were fashionable at the time and haircuts. It's a little bit like that because it was so long ago, but definitely the songs were a little bit better than the stage clothes.
Did you have to relearn the songs?
Pretty much. Stuff like the Prisoner and the Clairvoyant were pretty straightforward. I mean Seventh Son definitely was a bit of a handful, although we did get through it the first day of rehearsal and it didn't sound too bad, but the more we rehearsed it the more the little bits that were sticking needed work. It took quite a bit of work to get it right; it's more of a piece of music rather than a song. It works fantastically live: the atmosphere it creates live is really cool. It's great to be playing that one again.
Speaking of long songs (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is 10 minutes long), you have Phantom of the Opera (seven minutes long) in the set. It wasn't in the set on the original tour, so why did you add it to this one?
It actually fits in great. Someone suggested doing it and we popped it in and it works great. It's almost like a straight-ahead rock song compared to some of the stuff we're doing now. When I first joined the band it was like a progressive rock masterpiece. It rocks along nice and is great fun to play.
What's the toughest song to play?
Probably Seventh Son because you have to focus for that amount of time.
For people who saw the show in 1988, how has the stage set evolved? It looks different from the show I remember at the Winnipeg Arena.
It was taken from the album cover, which has a bleak polar landscape, but now we're certainly got more pyrotechnics. It's incredible. The light show is more sophisticated and computerized. To be honest I think we're playing the songs better as a band now than we did 20-odd years ago, so all around I think it's up a couple of notches.
What's the most fun song for you to play these days?
I enjoy all of them really. We play Aces High at the end of the set now. In the past we've always opened up with it. You're always working out the kinks in the first song and that was always difficult to play as a first song, but playing it at this point in the set lets it breathe a bit more and it's a lot more fun to play than it used to be when we opened up with it.
I think every guitarist who has dabbled in metal has tried to play that one.
It's a little bit tricky. It's like a train. If you don't get a good grip on it at the start you're liable to fall off halfway through.
Are there any songs you're tired of playing? Do you have a Satisfaction in your set?
We've been playing 2 Minutes to Midnight for a while now but every night it takes on an energy and people respond to it so that gives you feedback and you put it right back into the song and it's great fun to play as well. There's nothing I don't really enjoy. Even Run to the Hills is good fun to play. It's all good.
There are two Fear of the Dark tracks on the set list. That album was released after Seventh Son when you weren't even in the band, so how did those songs make it into the set?
Fear of the Dark has become quite a cornerstone of the set. It's kind of a participation number and people seem to relate to that song. It's got something about it. It's one of those songs I enjoy playing the most. The other one is Afraid to Shoot Strangers. That wasn't in the set originally and we decided to try it out and it does a good job of creating good dynamics in the set, it brings it down. It's interesting. It's a nice contrast to what else is going on.
What keeps you going these days?
Personally I'm always striving to get better. I just really enjoy it. When I was in the band the first time it was all a bit of a whirlwind; I wouldn't say we had success quickly, but once we did start getting successful it was elevated very quickly. We were headlining arenas and I was only 23, 24 years old. I think I can enjoy it much more now and take it in and really appreciate it and enjoy every minute of it, really.
Earlier this year you released the Primal Rock Rebellion album as a side project. How did that come about?
That was done over a period of years, literally. I think I started working on it about five years ago. I saw a band called SikTh and Mikee Goodman was one of their two singers. They were more of a new style metal band which I was interested in: I like the heavy riffs and the power and that sort of modern metal, whatever you want to call it. I was very excited about the thought of trying to introduce a bit more melody to it. So I got in touch with them and ended up working with Mikee writing a couple of songs. The first couple of things we did were quite interesting, he has a very very different approach to music than I do. He's younger than me and probably grew up listening to Pantera and Korn and these sorts of bands so we pulled each other out of our comfort zone. The album's really heavy musically and sonically, which is what I wanted to explore. I've got my own studio, so I was able to create these big guitar sounds and I played bass on it. I kept it personal. It was a lot of fun to do. I was proud of the way it turned out.
Any thoughts about bringing some of those guitar tones to Iron Maiden?
Iron Maiden will never have that kind of guitar sound. I play a bit of detuned stuff in the Maiden set, but it doesn't really overpower, it's just to create another dimension, another colour to the sound. If we started tuning down it wouldn't sound like Iron Maiden, so we'll never have that sound, that really boomy sort of sound. I think Maiden is a unique-sounding band, so you don't want to mess with that, really.
Having said that we did Satellite 15 on the last album which is something I did in my studio, which grew out of a Primal Rock thing. I played it to Steve and he took it in a different direction, so that was quite interesting. That wouldn't have happened if I didn't have the PRR thing going.
What did you think of the documentary Flight 666?
I love those guys Sam (Dunn) and Scot (McFadyen), they were great. They came out on the road with us. I think it was a bit difficult for them because it was outsiders coming on a very close-knit thing with our band and our crew. We've had a lot of the same crew for a long while, so they had to learn to slip and slide between the hectic life of a tour like that, but I think they did a good job and it's nice to have a document of a little part of your life. I think it was great to see the fans. The audiences down in South America are unbelievable.
They sure are passionate about you.
I don't think they have materially as much as a lot of people down there so music means a lot to them; music and football. It's a real passion, so when they come to the gigs they let it all out.