“Fuck off, that’s pathetic.” Bruce Dickinson is taking no prisoners tonight. Iron Maiden’s gloriously unpredictable singer is halfway through his customary, double-barrelled ‘SCREAM FOR ME!’s during a riotous run through The Prisoner, about a third of the way through the metal legends’ set at Prague’s O2 Arena. Tonight marks only the second stop of Maiden’s Future Past tour, and there’s a whiff of mischief and mayhem in the air.
Bashing together cuts from the band’s most recent album, 2021’s critically acclaimed Senjutsu, and 1986’s futuristic classic Somewhere In Time (plus a sprinkling of bonus bangers), this is certainly one of the more unique Maiden sets you’re likely to see, but it doesn’t make it any less enthralling. Right now, though, none of that matters: Bruce has asked Prague to scream for him, and they're not holding up their end of the bargain.
"SCREAM FOR ME, PRAGUE!" he demands once more. Thankfully, the Czech Republic's capital city duly obliges this time. Maiden's latest setlist leans into the Somewhere In Time era in some style, kicking off with a dizzying double-header of Caught Somewhere In Time and Stranger In A Strange Land and later dropping fan favourites Wasted Years and Heaven Can Wait, not to mention only the second ever playthrough of Alexander The Great. It's all lapped up by a Prague crowd clearly happy to bathe in some nostalgia, but the most invigorating part of tonight is just how immense the British icons' latest material sounds, bolstered by a band that sound taut and as fired-up as ever.
The Writing On The Wall's propulsive, mid-paced stomp sounds absolutely colossal, its earworm of a chorus bearing all the makings of a future live staple. The airing of ten-minute-plus epics Death Of The Celts and Hell On Earth is a bold swing, but both pay off - the former finding Dickinson, in fine voice throughout tonight, in his element as he bobs and weaves around rolling bursts of fog. Hell On Earth, meanwhile, boasts what must amount to 90% of this show's pyro budget, not to mention an absolute humdinger of a climax with its emotionally heavy 'Love in anger, life in danger' refrain. It all sounds and looks vast, epic and classically Maiden.
Fear Of The Dark, The Trooper and Iron Maiden predictably but emphatically bring the evening's loudest singalongs, and there's a welcome return for Can I Play With Madness, incredibly making an appearance in Maiden's sets for the first time in almost a decade.
And then, there's the stage show. Where the Legacy Of The Beast tour ramped up Maiden's showmanship to previously unseen levels, The Future Past reins things in just a little, but packs enough spectacle to make sure that all the extra trimmings really hit. Alongside the standard backing banners are glistening LCD screens splattered with fun visuals, be it The Prisoner's nods to the 60s TV show of the same name, The Trooper channelling 1936 war epic The Charge Of The Light Brigade or Wasted Years reeling off an epic run of Eddie designs through the years.
Somewhere In Time tracks are elevated by beautiful, Blade Runner-esque neon sci fi motifs, Dickinson embracing the theme from the off by emerging in a trenchcoat and shades combo that makes him look like something straight out of a Cyberpunk 2077 sequel. Even Eddie can't resist getting in on the action ASAP, popping out in his Stranger guise early on before later appearing in cyborg form, then samurai form (both big and small). Oh, and Bruce whacks out a firework-shooting machine gun at one point. Because of course he does.
There are minor road bumps; as is sometimes the case early on in these kinds of tours, Maiden taking on such a beast of a setlist means there are one or two brief unintended widdly detours and a couple of slight miscues. Bruce's quintessentially British patter also misses the mark a couple of times - a Can I Play With Agnes joke falls flat (hey, we laughed), as does a reference to a 'Czechoslovakian' football team (whoops!).
It's all ultimately taken in good humour, though, and it doesn't come close to derailing a set that, when it counts, sticks its landing in style. "Every fucking day we do this is the best day of our lives," beams Dickinson as Wasted Years brings the evening to an emotional close. Judging by the grins on everyone's faces as they leave the O2, we suspect they all feel the same way. Maiden continue to age like fine wine. Metal remains lucky to have them.
Iron Maiden Prague O2 Arena setlist
Caught Somewhere in Time
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Writing on the Wall
Days of Future Past
The Time Machine
Death of the Celts
Can I Play With Madness
Heaven Can Wait
Alexander the Great
Fear of the Dark
Hell on Earth