For a band that flies its own jumbo jet from town to town and enlists a giant ghoul named Eddie in all its stage productions, Iron Maiden is to be believed when it says it’s going big.
Even by those standards, though, the enormous scale and deep musical reach of the British metal band’s concert Monday night at Xcel Energy Center was rather unbelievable.
Billed as the group’s most ambitious production ever, Monday’s Legacy of the Beast Tour date literally started out with a bang and a roar as a life-size WWII-era fighter plane flew over — and eventually into the stage — during the attack-mode opening song “Aces High.”
Some of the other high-flying highfalutin stunts that followed included: a sword fight with a 10-foot-tall version of the Eddie mascot in “The Trooper;” a 30-foot demon head suddenly appearing during the song “Iron Maiden;” a little swinging on a gallows pole in “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and a moment where singer Bruce Dickinson’s wings were literally set ablaze per the lyrics of “Flight of Icarus.”
As great as all that new trickery and gimmickry was, the real treat for most of the 14,000 Maiden fans on hand was how old and deep the set list skewed during the 110-minute performance.
Monday’s concert came relatively quickly on the heels of the band’s last stop in town, a sold-out and equally thrilling but very different 2017 show also at Xcel Center, which followed a 16-year lull. While that gig set out to promote the new double album, “The Book of Souls,” this one stuck to the oldies.
After stripping off the various military gear he wore at the start of the show — including a winter get-up he could’ve worn to the Battle of the Bulge during “Where Eagles Dare” — the band’s bellowing and brutish frontman made a rare show of being human and humble as he first addressed the crowd.
“Do you know how [bleepin’] old we are?” asked Dickinson, 61, going on to figure that the combined age of the six band members “is older than the American Republic.”
That was the singer’s wry way of explaining how Monday’s show was “all about the legacy of the band,” now in its 40th year of recording — which is about 210 in metal-band years.
While it was great to hear a way-old deep cut such as 1983’s “Revelations,” the lads also made a strong case for some of their ’90s and ’00s tunes, including “Wicker Man,” the escalating epic “For the Greater Good of God” (featuring killer solos by dueling axemen Adrian Smith and Dave Murray) and “The Clansman.”
The latter song about Scottish warrior William “Braveheart” Wallace was a surprise since it came from the era when the group tried to carry on with a replacement singer — a hallmark of all long-lasting metal bands. It also prompted an awkward sign-of-the-times admonition by Dickinson to “make sure your social-media posts spell it ‘Clansman’ with a ‘C.’”
After one mid-’90s number edged on wacky Spinal Tap territory with its Gregorian-chant-like intro and fog-machined cemetery stage props (“Sign of the Cross”), the last 45 minutes of the show was all classics and pure hellfire, highlighted by divinely demonic versions of “The Number of the Beast,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run to the Hills.”
As they also proved in 2017, the Maiden men still have an ironclad tightness and steely strength like few metal acts their age.
Dickinson can still hit the window-rattling high notes and shake it across the stage physically. Guitarists Smith and Murray can also still shred like all the weaponry and sorcery that bassist and bandleader Steve Harris writes about in his lyrics.
The musical side of Monday’s set was so straight-up solid, in fact, all the visual doodads and dazzling displays might have seemed superfluous. But hey, with Ozzy on the sidelines and Mötley Crüe retired, who else is going to keep the pyro and undead costume companies in business if not Maiden?