For the first update on this blog in a while, I’ve decided to share a review I wrote of Steve Harris’ British Lion back in July of last year. This is one that was originally intended for publication on a music review website, but for one reason or another, never made it online. Enjoy!
Steve Harris British Lion, Norwich Waterfront, July 11th 2014
Of the six current members of Iron Maiden, bassist Steve Harris seems like the man least in need of a side project. Maiden is his band. He formed them, and he’s been at the helm since they first started out on the east London pub scene in the mid-1970s. As band leader and principle songwriter, ‘Arry is the man who shaped Iron Maiden into one of the most phenomenally successful and influential hard rock outfits in the history of popular music. As a member of that band, he can sell out any sized venue in any continent, usually within minutes of a show being announced. Tonight, however, his latest musical endeavour (the cringe-inducingly titled British Lion) is kicking off a European tour by playing to 600 people at the Norwich Waterfront. You’ve got to wonder why…
After two hours of watching the bassist jubilantly bounding across the stage with the reckless abandon of a man half his age, you realise that it’s not because he’s trying to prove anything. For Harris, British Lion is a holiday band; a break from the rigours of being the top dog in Iron Maiden and a chance to let his humongous mane of hair down (Steve Harris is 58 years old. The size and volume of his barnet is frankly mind boggling). His energy, and that of the rest of his pride is infectious. And, in spite of some early tour rustiness at the beginning of the set, the musical chops of the collective are undeniable.
British Lion are consistently entertaining to watch. It’s just a shame that the quality of the songs doesn’t match the energy with which they are delivered. Part of the problem is in the billing. When the name Steve Harris appears before a band on the poster masthead, the stakes are set incredibly high. After all, here is the man who brought us such bonafide heavy metal classics as Number of the Beast, The Trooper and Fear of the Dark. Yet, the musical fare on offer tonight is a merely adequate mix of blue-collar ‘70s hard rock and early ‘80s AOR that rarely evokes the awesome anthemics of the mighty Maiden. Perhaps its unfair to compare British Lion to a band who many have argued are the greatest in heavy metal. But, when the name of the founding member of the former is attached to the project, such comparisons are unfortunately inevitable.
Not that the sweaty throng of Maiden shirted fans in attendance tonight seem to mind. Fiercely loyal as always, they give British Lion the same reverent welcome that they would give Harris’ other band. Their cheering and chanting, no doubt enhanced by the unusual proximity of a man who has played on some of the world’s biggest stages, continues unabated from beginning to end. Indeed, it’s easy to get caught up in the spirited atmosphere. As the final chords of set ending track Eyes Of The Young ring out through the Waterfront, though, you can’t help but feel a bit deflated. British Lion is a well oiled and proficient metal machine. It’s just a shame they’re not made of iron.