Steve Harris’ (better known as the bassist from IRON MAIDEN) solo project came through The Circus in Helsinki on March 3rd, 2013, during the tour for “British Lion.” The debut album was released in the fall of 2012 and they’ve been doing a club tour through Europe since February 2013. Helsinki was the furthest north they’ve been thus far, and the promise of something new from an old legend managed to bring out a decent crowd on a Monday night.
If you happened to catch the show as an old IRON MAIDEN fan, you would have certainly found yourself surprised by the experience. While some might’ve expected “British Lion” to be a knock-off miniature MAIDEN, that was far from the case. With an all-new mindset and an all-new sound, it managed to display the complete versatility of Harris as a musician, showing that he could write whatever he wants to some degree of success. The set included every track from the album, save “The Lesson,” and included a couple unreleased tracks as well, such as “Father Lucifer” and “The Burning.”
The show got going right on time, with the band starting out with the first track from the album, “This is My God.” The members consist of Harris and a group of essentially entirely unknown fellows, some of whom have to be about Harris’ age. The music, particularly the vocals, had a much more modern feel to them. Abandoning the classic metal vibe and operatic wails you would get from an IRON MAIDEN concert, they were replaced with a more general rock sound. The style was reminiscent of many older rock bands; for example, there was a distinct flavor of U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” in the song “These Are the Hands.”
Harris was definitely trying out different techniques that he wouldn’t use in MAIDEN, as he had a distinct “Harris” sound, but not with the same feel as IRON MAIDEN’s bass sound. However, “British Lion” wasn’t completely free of Harris’ roots, as “The Burning,” “The Chosen Ones,” and “Us Against the World” all included guitar parts that had a distinct flavor of IRON MAIDEN to them. Both guitarists were perfectly capable, though did very little visually on stage than the most basic of rocking out on their instruments.
Musically, it was not what you would expect from a side project of an IRON MAIDEN veteran. The songs had a much more commercial sound to them, perhaps in the same vein as bands who may have been able to sell well back when MAIDEN was fresh and new and the market wasn’t ready for them. Nevertheless, the crowd was responsive to vocalist Richard Taylor’s efforts to hype them up, though certainly not with the passion elicited from bigger and more well-known bands. They were enthusiastic and if you had listened to the album and genuinely liked it, you wouldn’t have been disappointed.
The general vibe that came off them was that they were older guys on a first tour. With the exception of Harris perhaps, they were all enthusiastic, with that hint of awkwardness from people still finding their live personas, still waiting for the audience to know their music well enough to sing along, but doing their utmost to provide a lively and fun show for the fans. There was very little of anything exceptional though. Apart from an introduction to the instrumentalists from Taylor, and one brief angry moment where guitarist Grahame Leslie told off someone in the crowd for tossing a plastic bottle which almost hit him, there was almost no crowd interaction whatsoever. There was nothing truly of note to make them stand out over anyone else as a live band.
Though the show was nothing outstanding, or even especially noteworthy, if you are a fan of the music, it would be worthwhile to check them out. If nothing else, it’s fun to see one of the big guys still rocking out with all his heart, even in a venue, the size of which he hasn’t seen in years. It’s always great to know that these men who built the foundations of a genre can touch other areas and still feel the passion of something new after so many years of success.
1. This is My God
2. Lost Worlds
3. Karma Killer
4. Father Lucifer
5. The Burning
6. The Chosen Ones
7. These are the Hands
8. Guineas and Crowns
9. Last Chance
10. Us Against the World
11. A World Without Heaven
12. Do You Want It?
14. Let it Roll (UFO cover) (encore)
15. Eyes of the Young (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”