There’s a reason why the Cart & Horses calls itself the Home of Iron Maiden. If you step outside the humble, neon-lit establishment and look to your left the road leads to Leytonstone, where Steve Harris was born in 1956. Look to your right and it leads to Upton Park, the historic, erstwhile home of his beloved West Ham United which he would someday train for but ultimately opt for a musical path instead. Go back inside, and alongside other regalia you’ll see a large, grainy photograph of Iron Maiden in 1976. The lineup may have changed significantly by the time their 1980 debut was unleashed upon the world, but at some level the smiling kid on the right - ‘Arry at age 20 – hasn’t changed at all. By most accounts he changed the world instead.
Despite all that’s happened since those heady days nearly 50 years ago, he’s returned to the Cart & Horses to play a very special gig with his other band, British Lion, and it doesn’t take much imagination to conclude why that’s special. That’s because this isn’t just the home of Iron Maiden. It’s a rare chance to witness history being made, and it is a sight to behold, as is the diversity of fans who’ve traveled from every time zone to be here tonight, not to mention a few familiar faces from Maiden’s extended family and their own legendary Killer Krew.
Truth be told it’s actually British Lion’s third appearance here this month. Their winter tour started with two back-to-backs at the Cart at the very start of the run, both of which sold out faster than you can say "Up the Irons!", so they added a third one tonight and called it their Warm Down or Worn Out show. Predictably, it went in an instant, so if you’re standing here to watch it unfold you can count yourself very lucky indeed.
First up is one-time Maiden keyboardist Tony Moore and his Awake project, whose Gilmoresque guitar sojourns and pop-sensible progressiveness win a host of new fans in the audience, and it serves as a poignant warm-up to the main event, because as steeped in momentousness as tonight may be, it does British Lion a disservice not to credit them as a kick-ass live-band that’s full of fury and brilliance. Singer Richard Taylor is a masterclass in note-perfect delivery, and while the tiny stage barely holds guitarists David Hawkins and Graham Lesley, their twin attack - backed up by Steve and drummer Simon Dawson’s relentless gallop - isn’t just impressive. It’s testament to the love for the live stage and the lifelong commitment of the man on bass to deliver for his fans every night be the gig big or small, wherever, wherever they are.