Iron Maiden has been epic for decades.
Long before that word was misapplied to sidewalk skateboard stunts, it perfectly described the 36-year-old British rock band's approach.
Iron Maiden's three-guitar attack isn't just there to rock you. It underscores lyrics describing genocide, battles with muskets and one scared dude's fever-dream attempts to fend off of the devil. (You need not play 1980s Iron Maiden backward to find d-bombs).
The group's provocative lyrics, often literary in origin, come to life via the Broadway-ready pipes of Bruce Dickinson, who stays on scream-key more often than most metal singers.
Iron Maiden's ethic is highly theatrical and heavily British. British as in the Tower of London and Mary Shelley, not beach volleyball and William and Kate.
The band's current tour, "Maiden England," name-checks its roots as well as its 1988 concert video. For fans who wore out that video or are too young to have seen it, Iron Maiden will re-create part of the experience Saturday night at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Wheatland.
Eddie, Iron Maiden's sinewy, monstrous and up-for-anything mascot, will be in Wheatland as well.
Longtime Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith, 55, speaking by phone this week before a show in Seattle, discussed the "Maiden England" tour and the beauty within the hideous Eddie.
Is the set list in the current "Maiden England" show similar to the one from the video?
Yeah. There are songs from (the 1988 album) "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son," but interspersed with our new material. We also play (earlier 1980s) songs like "The Trooper" and "Run to the Hills."
Compared with today's metal and hard rock, Iron Maiden sounds elegant
Today, the emphasis seems to be on shock. We have a lot of melody in our songs. That is one of the keys to why we are still around. There has been plenty of shock (in Iron Maiden songs), but we haven't always gone for that.
You and fellow Iron Maiden guitarist Dave Murray have played together since you were kids, right?
Dave and I have known each other since we were 15 years old. We were the only kids who were into rock music at the time. Now it is everywhere, but then it was unusual, and underground. Dave and I just started doing stuff together, sort of at school. Sometimes we look at each other and we can still remember years ago when we were kids. (laughs).
Iron Maiden has three guitarists you, Dave Murray and Janick Gers. How do you work out who plays what?
It has got to be organized. Otherwise, it would be chaos. We don't extend songs, really (with riffing). We don't get too self-indulgent.
Back to the subject of things made in England: Are you sad to be missing the Olympics?
Well, we are watching it on TV. On tour, you kill a lot of time, so it's been great.
You left Iron Maiden for much of the 1990s. Did that time away affect your outlook on the band?
Definitely. When I came back, the first thing I noticed was how young some of the fans were. And I definitely appreciated it more. When I was younger, I was just in it for what it was. But the band has kind of matured, and honestly, we are playing better than we ever have.
You have a side project called Primal Rock Rebellion and an album called "Awoken Broken" with singer Mikee Goodman, formerly of the experimental metal band Sikth. How did that project come about?
We just started writing something together. I do like some of the new metal stuff, but I wanted to try something with more melody. It is a heavy record and modern sounding, but with choruses and melody.
Will Eddie be prominent on stage at Sleep Train Amphitheatre?
Yeah, you can't keep him away really. (laughs). He comes in several different guises. That is the great thing about him. You can dress him however you want.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday; Coheed and Cambria open
Where: Sleep Train Amphitheatre, 2677 Forty Mile Road, Wheatland
Information: www.livenation.com, (800) 745-3000