For fans of real heavy metal, Iron Maiden may be one of England’s greatest exports.
But South Florida has its own claim on the venerable rock band — and it’s not just that Iron Maiden is opening its most lavish tour yet on Thursday from Sunrise’s BB&T Center.
Drummer Nicko McBrain has his Boca Raton pad and a Rock ‘n’ Roll Ribs restaurant in Coral Springs.
Founding bassist Steve Harris maintains a Fort Lauderdale condo.
And guitarist Adrian Smith is on the phone from Miami where he’s rehearsing with the others for the band’s concert.
“Because a couple of the guys got homes here we traditionally start rehearsing in Florida before our American tours. It’s logical to do the first show here and build the tour around that,” Smith said.
Big ticket sales
Not that Iron Maiden should need too much rehearsing. The band concluded the European leg of its 2018 Legacy of the Beast Tour and by all accounts — ticket sales, reviews, band member opinions — the sextet should have this lavish show down pat. There are 33 shows in the U.S. and so far eight subsequent dates in Canada and South and Central America.
(The Sunrise arena concert is the only Florida date but sales are brisk and demand compelled Maiden to add a second show to its run at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on July 26-27.)
Combining the European and American legs of the Legacy tour, the band’s U.S. publicist and the promoter, Live Nation, said the 2018-19 tour will have played to 1.75 million people globally. So who needs radio play?
“I never thought I’d be touring this long but I’m enjoying it more than ever,” the 62-year-old London-born Smith said.
Smith was first approached to join Iron Maiden by fellow guitarist Dave Murray in 1979. He held off until formally joining in time for the 1981 “Killers” album. He took leave from the band through the 1990s to pursue other projects but has been back with Iron Maiden since 1999.
“This show is one of the best we’ve done,” he said. “When a band has been together as long as we have we tried to keep it fresh.”
The biggest production
Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson said the tour’s response in Europe inspired the band to make Legacy of the Beast it’s “biggest production” to date.
With no new album to promote, the tour can draw from Iron Maiden’s catalog of 16 studio albums, dating back to 1980’s eponymous debut up through the well-received double-album, “The Book of Souls,” in 2015.
The stage design is based on the group’s mobile video app, “The Legacy of the Beast,” which depicts various incarnations of the group’s ghoulish mascot, “Eddie,” moving through various Maiden worlds, Dickinson said in a statement.
“This inspired us to put together a stage show to take our fans through different worlds and experiences set to appropriate songs. It is not that easy designing different worlds on stage and we put a huge amount of work into this to make it work and the end result we feel is our most spectacular and certainly the most complex show to date.”
Among the “crazy things going on” on stage, Dickinson, 60, points to a replica Spitfire plane that dominates the stage during “Aces High,’” a giant Icarus for the 1983 classic, “Flight of Icarus,” and “tons of pyro,” of course. There are also muskets, claymores, flame-throwers (“which I have a hell of a lot of fun with,” he said) and, naturally, Eddie.
“I’ve had the time of my life playing with all these magnificent props on stage,” Dickinson said.
Reborn catalog songs
Steve Harris, Iron Maiden’s bassist who founded the band in 1975 and saw it heralded as a pioneer in the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” movement that spawned Def Leppard, Motörhead and Saxon — and inspired Metallica and Megadeth — credits the band’s songs for allowing a tour like Legacy to succeed.
“We gave a lot of thought to the set list for this tour as the songs needed to follow the narrative of the changing worlds of the stage show,” Harris, 63, said in a statement. “We feel we ended up with a very strong and well balanced set mixing songs we haven’t played in many years like ‘Flight of Icarus,’ ‘Sign of the Cross’ and ‘The Clansman’ with songs we know the fans want to hear like ‘The Trooper,’ ‘2 Minutes to Midnight,’ ‘The Number of the Beast,’ ‘Fear of the Dark,’ ‘Run to the Hills,’ ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and others.”
Smith said it’s this catalog and the ability to pull an oldie like “Flight of Icarus” or “Where Eagles Dare” — both from the 1983 “Piece of Mind” album — out after years of non-play that keeps touring fresh.
That, and crafting imaginative stage presentations that cater to Dickinson’s love for theatrics and costumes, and the musicians’ desire to stretch out on their instruments. Some Maiden tunes barrel beyond the 10-minute mark.
“Bruce has to be a little bit more involved in the show. He puts a lot of work into that. I’m not as heavily involved in the production. Just don’t put stuff in front of my amps. That’s my one stipulation. I don’t want any goats or monsters in front of me. But we have a great production team and crew and Bruce leans toward the theatrics and has gone to town on this one with flame throwers and costumes,” Smith said.
“It’s great fun. I never thought I’d play on stage with a Spitfire,” Smith said.
If you go
What: Iron Maiden’s “Legacy of the Beast” Tour with The Raven Age as opening act
Where: BB&T Center, One Panther Pkwy., Sunrise
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18
Information: 954-835-7000 or Ticketmaster.com