POP MUSIC REVIEW : Iron Maiden: Blood, Sweat and Beers

Iron Maiden, which headlined the sold-out Long Beach Arena on Wednesday, is the prototypal workingman's metal band, all blood, sweat and beers. A decade on the arena circuit has given them a presence, a graceful ease on a big stage that few if any other hard-rock bands can equal.

Of course, the songs were dull. But Maiden's churning, speeded-up metal was the inspiration for virtually all the current speed-metal critics' faves; the group's stage show--dominated by a rotting, 12-foot cyborg named Eddie--is polished and captivating. Singer Bruce Dickinson showed all the charisma that was somehow lacking in his recent solo tour--some guys apparently thrive on bombast.

Second-billed Anthrax's song "Persistence of Time" may be the first mature speed-metal meditation on middle age, a melancholy classic of thrash existentialism. Call it the "Prufrock" of the slam pit. But on Wednesday the meditation was anything but quiet.

On stage, skeleton arms whirled around the face of an enormous clock, glowing skulls positioned at 3, 6 and 9. The music cranked at Anthrax's patented crunching walk, short riffs pounded out with an intensity and sheer repetition that brought to mind the power of, say, early X, and singer Joey Belladonna and Tut-bearded songwriter/rhythm guitarist Scott Ian bounced off one another's energy like a speeded-up Mick and Keith. As performers, Anthrax have finally come into their own.

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