The Mandrake Project Tour – Bruce Dickinson at The Observatory on April 15, 2024

Bruce Dickinson
The Observatory
Santa Ana, California
April 15, 2024

Bruce Dickinson has long been recognized as one of the greatest singers in the business. As front man of Iron Maiden, he has been making music and performing for over four decades. Dickinson’s solo career began not long after his entry into Maiden. Celebrating  the release of The Mandrake Project, his latest seventh solo album, Dickinson is set to tour Europe beginning in mid-May.

A couple weeks back Dickinson and his band played three sold-out dates in Southern California to launch The Mandrake Project Tour. The first two nights were played at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. The third and what would be the final show in the States took place at The Observatory in Santa Ana. 

To see Dickinson and his crushing ensemble of musicians play a 16-song set was remarkable. The setlist was comprised of songs solely from the English singer’s solo catalog. Notably, no Iron Maiden’s songs were played while four songs from The Mandrake Project were performed. This was no reason to protest as each of the tracks were crowd-pleasers. With guitarists Chris Declercq and Philip Naslund, Tanya Callaghan on bass, Mistheria on keys, and Dave Moreno on drums, Dickinson was backed by a crushing ensemble of musicians played the new songs as well as the back catalog of Dickinson’s tunes with virtuosity.

“Accident of Birth” started the show. The strong, well-balanced sound, lighting, and crowd’s excitement were but a few of the things that were impressive. The song’s chorus was a sentiment; an exchange between Dickinson and the audience. And vice versa. “Welcome home. It’s been too long. We’ve missed you…”  While relatively small, with room for a 1,000 people, The Observatory was the ideal venue for this concert. Dickinson and his band could easily fill a place with 20 times the seating capacity, but this location was picked as the launching site for the big shows ahead on the tour. So the Santa Ana crowd would eat it up.

“I like you. Increasingly!”, expressed to the crowd with warm appreciation. Now 65-years old, Dickinson is undoubtedly one of rock’s elder statesman, known not only for his vocal ability, but his athleticism onstage. He didn’t jump off the drum riser and get big air like he does during an Iron Maiden, but he sang at the top of his game and rarely stopped moving. He seemed right at home, there with his band.

Dickinson’s solo career songs are conceptual, thematic, and instrumentally heavy, much like Iron Maiden songs. “Chemical Wedding”, one example, put the power and grandeur of Dickinson’s talented musicians on display. The crowd got off on “Frankenstein”, the timeless hard rock instrumental classic by The Edgar Winter Group.

Despite the absence of tenured guitarist Roy Z, Naslund handled is duties well. He and Declercq were an impressive duo. Each musician shined. Each had their spotlight moments, particularly O’Callaghan, who blew the crowd away. Her bass playing and onstage physicality was yet another reason why this night was so special.

There were many classic moments on this night. The latter part of the show was when it glaringly apparent that Bruce Dickinson and his band are one of the greatest live acts in rock today. At the encore, Dickinson kicked out “Navigate the Seas of the Sun”, a masterful composition from the Tyranny of Souls album. The dreamlike trance induced by this song didn’t linger. Two songs from Chemical Wedding followed; “Book of Thel” and “The Tower”, the last song. A musical journey that will not soon be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

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