Auckland gets rowdy on a Sunday night as British metal titans Iron Maiden fly into town. Chris Schulz was there.

Outside the venue, fans queue to choose between 22 designs of black T-shirts, each featuring variations of a demonic skeleton. One shows him waving a British flag, another has him playing rugby.

Once they're inside, Iron Maiden's dedicated diehards order bottles of the band's very own "Trooper" beer for $15. The brews feature their red eyed skeleton on the label too but no one gets to keep the collectible glass bottle it comes in. Thanks to Vector Arena's strict rules, the beer goes into a plastic cup, and the bottle in the bin.

Janick Geers performs with Iron Maiden at Vector Arena in Auckland. Photo/Alexander Hallag
Janick Geers performs with Iron Maiden at Vector Arena in Auckland. Photo/Alexander Hallag

Once they're in their seats, there's plenty to see too. As the British metal titans take to the stage in front of a sold out crowd for their first show here since 2009, a fully grown man sitting in my row tries, and fails, to play air guitar and air drums at the same time to opening track If Eternity Should Fail.

Then there's their stage rig, a hulking setup that takes in the width of Vector Arena's main stage and, with its flaming pyres and smoking cauldrons, appears to be stolen straight from the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


Taking pride of place in the middle of it is a giant golden drum kit gleaming so brightly all anyone can see of drummer Nicko McBrain is the top of his head and the tips of his sticks flailing around above it.

If you didn't already realise it, Iron Maiden do things their way. And their way means the bigger, the better. What else do you expect from a band that flew their very own Boeing 747-400, nicknamed Ed Force One, into Auckland, piloted by singer Bruce Dickinson?

Things only get more ridiculous when the six-piece, now into their fifth decade and in the middle of an ambitious world tour taking in 72 countries to promote their latest album The Book of Souls, get deeper into their two-hour show of devilish metal antics.

During The Book of Souls, a giant caveman lumbers around the stage, playing air guitar alongside the band and scratching his bum, before Dickinson rips out his heart, runs around the stage with it, squeezes out the blood, then throws it into the crowd.

That prop is topped during The Number of the Beast, as a giant blow up goat oversees the band's 1982 anthem from up high, his arms crossed sternly as neon shards bathe the band in green.

Adrian Smith performs with Iron Maiden at Vector Arena. Photo/Alexander Hallag
Adrian Smith performs with Iron Maiden at Vector Arena. Photo/Alexander Hallag

Their music is over the top too. Iron Maiden play like they're soundtracking action sequences featuring galloping Clydesdales. The Red and the Black comes with so many guitar solos I lost count around six, while guitars are played vertically at every possible opportunity.

And while songs from last year's album The Book of Souls have a more modern chug to them, they're still thoroughly indebted to Iron Maiden's blueprints that were ironed out in the 80s: riff-fueled metal stampedes with football stadium-sized hooks sung over the top of them.

Fans crammed into every nook and cranny of the venue loved every second of it. With the final notes of Wasted Years ringing around the venue, the ultimate tribute came from the guy sitting next to me, who had spent the show yelling, "F*** yeah" twice then punching the air after every song.

With the house lights on and people leaving their seats, he was still sitting there, yelling, punching and swearing to an empty stage, clamouring for more after two hours of demonic metal shenanigans.

* What did you think of the show? Post your comments below.