After the Sound of Music intro tape, moving rapidly through the old Samson territory of Riding With The Angels to the first of tonight's Tattooed Millionaire LP tracks, Born In '58, Bruce powered into his set with his voice on top form, and his stage presence threatening to overwhelm the entire venue. He wasn't the only one up on stage to grab some attention; recently-recruited Maiden guitarist Janick Gers enjoying the first of several fretboard freakouts during Lickin' The Gun.
Gypsy Road led, via Dive! Dive! Dive! and Dickie Fliszar's drum solo, to a brief exploration of Da Blooze in the form of The Ballad of Mutt, followed, in stark contrast, by Zulu Lulu and Son Of A Gun, the latter exploding from a quiet intro into thoroughly satisfying rifferama.
Hell On Wheels brought us to All The Young Dudes, and some very early '70s sounding guitar from Mr. Gers, who was in remarkably restrained mood for once. And then there was Tattooed Millionaire. Call me a sell-out, commercial singles buyer of you want, but this is already one of my all-time favourite tracks, and tonight's rendition was a stormer!
Set closer No Lies saw Bruce's vocals take on that distinctive twang familiar from the studio version, while Janick staged another attempt to out-do Ritchie Blackmore in the realm of the over-the-top six-string thing, even bouncing his guitar off the ceiling at one point. However, Bruce remained true to form, joining Dickie on drums for the duration.
After the joyful news that England had thrashed Belgium 1-0 in an essential World Cup match, things calmed down somewhat for Winds Of Change, with Andy Carr relinquishing his bass guitar to join Dickie Fliszar on tambourines before AC/DC's Sin City swaggered out of the PA in a flurry of mind-melting riffs and intense vocals.
"Brucie" (as the audience chant had it) opened the second encore with the confirmation that Iron Maiden would be touring this Autumn and belated introductions to the various members of his band, concluding the eighty-five minute set with Free's Wishing Well and Deep Purple's Black Night.
This was hardly my Gig Of The Year, but Tattooed Millionaire, No Lies, and Sin City made it seem like it. Bruce was splendid but I still have grave reservations about manic Janick's inclusion in the Maiden. We shall have to wait and see how things turn out this Autumn!