"This was no mere warm-up; this was a declaration that Bruce Dickinson is still a force of nature in the metal universe." Iron Maiden's irrepressible frontman played his first solo show in over 20 years - and it was a triumph

Here's what happened when Bruce Dickinson rocked up to the intimate Whisky A Go Go for a historic first solo show in 22 years

Bruce Dickinson sings on stage
(Image: © Future (Stephanie Cabral))

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On Friday evening, in the shadowy confines of the historic Whisky A Go Go—a hallowed sanctum where the ghosts of rock royalty linger amid the smell of spilled whiskey and sweat— Iron Maiden Frontman Bruce Dickinson descends like a bat out of whatever hellish realm harbours legendary frontmen when they're not on stage. In front of 500 exceedingly lucky bastards, Dickinson has arrived to rekindle the frenzied, raw spirit of the Sunset Strip of the 80s — a time when anything could happen and usually did. 

Early in the week, the Whisky’s marquee listed the less-than-whelming “House Band Of Hell” as Friday night’s entertainment. By Wednesday evening, however, the LA metal community had shifted into high gear after Dickinson revealed on social media that said performers were actually him and his solo band, now featuring guitarists Philip Näslund and Chris Declercq and keyboardist Mistheria alongside the unbreakable rhythms of Irish bassist Tanya O'Callaghan and drummer Dave Moreno. On Thursday night, Lita Ford played the Whisky and by the time her set ended at midnight, a line had already formed for Bruce.

Though the doors open at 8, there’s already a sprawling line of fans winding down the block, many ticketless but optimistic; Dickinson himself bunkered down in the box office earlier in the day to sell tickets to slack-jawed, queuing fans. For those keeping score, this will be Dickinson’s first live solo show since the summer of 2002.

You never really appreciate an opening act until you don’t have one, which is precisely the case tonight. For two hours, the crowd buzz, booze and grow progressively more restless until finally, at ten, the band descend from the balcony and take the stage for an instantly-energising Accident Of Birth. The house erupts in deafening assent, chanting “Bruce! Bruce!” as the opener’s final note still rings. “I’m not doing this by myself, you know,” he quips, gesturing to his band.

The setlist delivers no less than six live debuts, including blistering renditions of 2005’s Abduction and the 2008’s The Alchemist, mixed in with selections from his latest release, The Mandrake Project. New tracks like Afterglow Of Ragnarok and Rain On The Graves sit easily alongside classics Tears Of The Dragon and Darkside Of Aquarius. The band are unbelievably tight as Dickinson ping pongs across the cramped stage with a cat-like agility that belies his 65 years. Occasionally he jumps behind a rack of toms to join Moreno in percussion, while Mistheria struts about with that most vaunted sigil of 80s culture, the keytar.

While Näslund and Declercq deliver the sort of fist-pumping fretwork befitting of Dickinson’s pedigree and ambition, it’s O’Callaghan and Moreno anchoring the band with seismic ferocity, particularly on Chemical Wedding and a surging cover of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein, with Dickinson manning the Theremin in a spectacle of wild, sonic sorcery.

“I can say that this is the first gig of the entire world tour.” says Dickinson. “The first of fifty nights.” Indeed, they’ve added another Whisky show for the next night before a scheduled date in Orange County on Monday.

They end with encores Jerusalem and Road To Hell, rounding off an unrelenting ninety-minute set of raw, unbridled power. This was no mere warm-up for an upcoming tour; this was a declaration that Bruce Dickinson is still a force of nature in the metal universe, an intrepid helmsman navigating through the tempests of musical mediocrity to deliver a show that reminded everyone why metal was, is, and always will be, the music of the rebel and the believer.


♬ original sound - metalhammeruk

Bruce Dickinson Whisky A Go Go setlist (April 12 2024)

Accident Of Birth
Laughing In The Hiding Bush
Afterglow Of Ragnarok
Chemical Wedding
Many Doors To Hell
Tears Of The Dragon
Resurrection Men
Rain On The Graves
Gods Of War
The Alchemist
Darkside Of Aquarius
Road To Hell

Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.