Setlist History: Iron Maiden's First Show with Bruce Dickinson

On this day in 1981, Iron Maiden replaced its original singer, Paul Di'Anno, with the man who would quickly become the voice of the metal icons - and eventually the pilot of its airliner.

At the Palazzo dello Sport in Bologna, Italy, on 10/26/81, 23 year-old Bruce Dickinson took to the stage and led the group through a 17-song blistering set which concluded with three encores.

Maiden was wrapping up its Killers World Tour which made its biggest dent when the band was opening for Judas Priest across the US in arenas that summer of '81. Many fans of Priest were seeing Maiden and its dual-guitar attack for the first time and were duly impressed.

But during that march, Di'Anno became disillusioned with Maiden's manager Rod Smallwood and bassist Steve Harris. Not only was Harris the founding member of the band but he was also its principal composer and lyricist, thus leader.

Di'Anno desired to push the band into an edgier punk direction while Harris envisioned the more melodic sound the band mastered a year later with The Number of the Beast (1982) and then Piece of Mind (1983).

The band only held a few auditions to replace Di'Anno and quickly found their man in Dickinson, formerly of Samson, a group that recorded in the same studio as Maiden... around the same time.

Dickinson's audition tapes reveal a confident singer with the chops to front a powerful group ready to take on all comers.

Those first two albums with Dickinson on the mic, by the way, sold 20 million and 13 million copies worldwide, respectively.

Harris was correct, it appears.

Bruce Dickinson in 1984 performing the tune "Iron Maiden" which originally appeared on the band's debut.

Years later Di'Anno stuck to his guns claiming he left Iron Maiden because the dynamic he endured was "like having Mussolini and Adolf Hitler run your band. Because it is Ron Smallwood and Steve Harris and that's it," he told Metal Rules. "There can't be anyone else and my character is too strong for that, so me and Steve was always fighting. I write better songs than Steve so we just let it go."

Dickinson's first gig with Maiden was largely the tunes the band had been playing with Di'Anno, but two there are two songs of interest beginning with "Running Free" from the band's self-titled debut album.

The driving rocker was the opening track off Maiden's first live EP, Maiden Japan, which featured Di'Anno on vocals.

But when the group released Live After Death in 1985, Di'Anno's two-and-a-half minute song had become an 8-minute epic call-and-response for Dickinson to connect with the large audiences they were attracting.

"I Got the Fire" with Dickinson on vocals appears as the B-Side of the "Flight of Icarus" single.

The final song in the set, "I Got the Fire" is a Montrose cover. Interesting in retrospect because Montrose was another band who shed its original singer, Sammy Hagar, who would go on to front another legendary hard rock outfit.

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Last updated: 3 Feb 2023, 06:19 Etc/UTC