Concert review: Iron Maiden in Ft. Lauderdale

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Lauren Harris' namesake band plays straightforward late-'80s hard rock. If they were opening for Def Leppard or Poison, they'd have fit perfectly. No one I was with seemed to mind her too much, and I didn't sense much of a negative reaction from the sold-out crowd, but my inner cynic wonders: If her father wasn't the architect of one of metal's greatest bands, and he wasn't backstage, would we be so polite?

Just like on Live After Death, Iron Maiden's set exploded with "Aces High," putting the band's almost excessive triple-guitar attack and Dickinson's patented air-raid-siren vocals on immediate display.  The frontman vaulted himself between platforms all night long, bouncing around the stage with the energy of a man half his 51 years. When I wasn't too busy headbanging to notice, it appeared that Dave Murray had his choice of guitar solos.

Adrian Smith made the most of his opportunity to shine during the legendary intro to "Wasted Years." Janick Gers seemed relegated to a predominantly rhythm guitar role. The Bank Atlantic Center sound was adequate, but too loud and muddled to accurately determine what each guitarist was playing. However, Harris' bass was perfectly audible.

Aside from the deep Number of the Beast track "Children of the Damned," there were few surprises in the set. Powerslave was heavily represented with the aforementioned "Aces High" as well as "2 Minutes to Midnight," the title track, and the literary epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," complete with a swaying, creaking lighting rig and well-synchronized fireworks as it geared towards its finale.

Bruce once again waved a Union Jack during "The Trooper," and the one-two punch of "Fear of the Dark" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name" was almost too much anthemic metal awesomeness to bear. Even the Paul Di'Anno era was well-represented with "Wrathchild" and the blistering centerpiece of the band's 1980 debut, "Phantom of the Opera." When Bruce said, "This may be the last time we ever play some of these songs," "Rime" and "Phantom" especially felt like classics about to be sealed in a vault.

Iron Maiden treated the crowd to two Eddie sightings. For the first, during set-closer "Iron Maiden," an Eddie sarcophagus opened to reveal a giant mummified Eddie looming large over the stage (pictured right).

Later, a 10-foot-tall, cybernetic Somewhere in Time-era Eddie joined the band halfway through "The Evil That Men Do" and pretended to shoot bandmembers with a gun. (Set phasers to awesome.)

The encore-closing "Sanctuary" — interrupted by a long goodbye and thanks to the tour crew — was a bit of a buzzkill. But Bruce once again promised a relatively quick return to Florida in 2011. I hope it's a promise Iron Maiden keeps. As for now, I happily cross them off my own personal "bands I must see before I die" list.

The good news: if you couldn't make it to Fort Lauderdale last Thursday for the first Iron Maiden show in Florida since '95, frontman Bruce Dickinson swore up and down multiple times Maiden would return to our state in 2011.

The bad news: the classic Powerslave-era stage decor and the old-songs-only mantra of the Somewhere Back In Time tour are now a thing of the past ... again.

I waited half my life to see this band in person. Were you to peruse my apartment, you would find no less than three dozen Maiden releases. Multiple copies of studio albums due to varying reissue bonuses. Rare singles.  Multiple live albums — some on both CD and DVD.  Even the ridiculous Eddie's Archive metallic casket of rarities.  It's silly and excessive(ly awesome), I admit. Given the band's lengthy absence from Florida, I'm positive many others shared my situation. But would the British Heavy Metal legends live up to years of expectation?

Before the band could answer that question I had to sit through the worst case of rock 'n' roll nepotism since I saw The Poor open for AC/DC at what used to be the Thunderdome (Angus Young's nephew played drums): the rock star aspirations of Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris' daughter.

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