Former Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley took the stage at Come and Take It Live in Austin on Thursday, August 31st to a small, beer soaked, leather and denim clad crowd, but he might as well have been rocking a stadium of thousands. Though Bayley’s tenure with the almighty metal gods was short, he clearly learned how to command a crowd while cutting his teeth with them.
It’s probably inaccurate to call Bayley’s circumstance “unfortunate,” but he did take on the unenviable task of trying to replace one of the greatest metal singers of all time in one of the most revered metal bands in history. It led his two albums with Iron Maiden, The X Factor and Virtual XI, to be unfairly maligned. The truth is, much of that material was very strong and set the course that Iron Maiden has pursued musically to this day. The only problem was that Blaze wasn’t Bruce.
Performing to his small audience though, Bayley seemed anything but “unfortunate.” In fact, he described himself as lucky to be living his dream, thanking the audience for allowing him to pay his rent and to travel the world by supporting him. Then he promptly ripped right into songs from both his solo catalogue, his former bands Blaze and Wolfsbane, and, of course, those Iron Maiden songs.
There’s no denying that the strongest songs in the set were ones like “The Clansman”, which Iron Maiden fans immediately recognized and sang along with. That was obvious, but what was less apparent was how many legitimately strong songs Bayley could pull from his own catalog. Songs like “Silicon Messiah” and “Dark Energy 256” were right at home alongside, say, “Futureal” from his Maiden days.
Part of what made his show so appealing as well was the talent of his band. Guitarist Chris Appleton more than nailed his parts on those Maiden songs, which is no small feat when trying to do the work of two guitarists. On Bayley solo tracks, Appleton, a co-writer and producer of many of them, really got to shine as a lead player. It’s clear that Bayley discovered a gem of a guitarist in Appleton.
It’d be easy to take a cynical stance on Bayley. He came into Iron Maiden during a down period in metal in general, he was unceremoniously let go as soon as Dickinson expressed interest in reclaiming his throne, and over seventeen years later Bayley’s far from the fame, glory, and stadium performances that Iron Maiden continue to experience. But, no matter how much soul searching it may have taken, Bayley seems legitimately happy with his place in the metal world. He can still perform with the best of them, and he’s willing to put on a show to anyone willing to listen. Like he said, he’s still living his dream. What else matters?