By Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Iron Maiden is preparing to launch its most ambitious tour ever with its Somewhere Back In Time World Tour 2008 that includes a swing through Australia for the first time in 15 years. The world tour will consist of three legs, starting in February and March 2008, with the first leg encompassing major concerts in 20 selected cities on five continents in seven weeks, including India, Japan, North America, Central and South America and Australia. The tour opens in Perth on Feb. 4.

The tour then continues with more concerts in North America in late May and June before finishing with a third leg in July and August covering major stadiums and festivals throughout Europe. During the tour the band is expected to play to well over one and a half-million fans and travel close to 100,000 miles.

In an historic first, Iron Maiden, their 60-person crew and support staff and more than 12 tons of equipment, will be traveling around the world en masse for the first leg of the tour in a specially commissioned and converted Astraeus Boeing 757 decorated with Maiden and its mascot Eddie designs. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson, who is also a qualified airline captain flying for Astraeus Airlines, will pilot the plane, flying over 50,000 miles. . .

“We had the idea last year of converting a jumbo jet into effectively what would be a flying 113 ton ‘splitter bus’ for touring, and we have been working seriously on it ever since,” Dickinson said in a prepared statement. “It’s pretty complex, but in the end we were able, with a lot of help from Astraeus Airlines, to overcome all the technicalities of customizing the plane for our purposes.”

According to Dickinson, the back 10 rows of seats were removed to fit in a customized cargo hold, in addition to all the standard storage holds. By taking band, personnel and equipment in one form of transport, the touring will be much easier, he said, and overcomes the logistical difficulty of people and equipment going in different planes.

“We can even work out exactly how big our carbon footprint is and take care of that responsibility. We will be packing as much of the show into the plane as we possibly can for this first leg and intend to give the fans something very special to remember. And it allows me to combine two of my greatest passions, music and flying,” Dickinson added.

To tie in with forthcoming 2008 releases on DVD of the classic “Live After Death” and “Maiden England” concert videos, this tour will revisit the band’s history by focusing almost entirely on the 80’s in both its song list and the stage set, which will be based around the legendary Egyptian production of the 1984-85 Powerslave Tour. This will arguably be the most elaborate and spectacular show the band have ever presented and will include some key elements of their Somewhere In Time tour of 1986/7, such as the Cyborg Eddie.

“On the last tour we opened the show by playing our new album “A Matter of Life and Death” in its 80 minute entirety,” bassist Steve Harris said in a statement. “We thought we needed the challenge and it proved the right thing to do. However, it can be hard on the fans playing so much new material, and we really appreciated the superb support they gave us. So now, l guess it’s payback time.”

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The band liked the idea of using the profile of the DVDs to do what is effectively an 80’s show. “It will be enormous fun and by changing the approach to the songs we play tour by tour it keeps it fresh and interesting for both the band and the fans alike. l think Powerslave was an incredible show with the Egyptian theme and look forward to seeing it all again myself. We have been planning this for a few years and hoping to take it to Australia, so we are all delighted that it has now worked out,” Harris added.

Rod Smallwood, Iron Maiden’s manager, added “Following Bruce’s various hints from on stage this last year about our plans for 2008 –‘We are taking some time off to build some pyramids!’–fans have been pestering me for details of the tour and especially asking which songs from that era will be played…we intend to make up for those wasted years by visiting a large number of hallowed metal venues around the world.”

Historically, this will be Maiden’s fourth Australian Tour having first toured in 1982 when the band’s The Number of the Beast was Australia’s number one album, then again in 1985 with the original Powerslave show and most recently in 1992 with Fear of the Dark.

Tickets go on sale to the public on Sept. 27, but members of the Iron Maiden fan club get exclusive first access to purchase tickets on Sept. 20-24.

Iron Maiden’s Australian itinerary:

Monday 4 Burswood Dome, Perth
Wednesday 6 Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Saturday 9 Acer Arena, Sydney
Tuesday 12 Entertainment Centre, Brisbane