It’s been over 20 years since Bruce Dickinson has performed as a solo act on tour. Last night (April 15th, 2024), Bruce and his solo band took their talents to the Observatory in Santa Ana, California. They previously played two warmup shows at the world-famous Whisky A-Go-Go in Hollywood, but this was the first official date on The Mandrake Project Tour. The show was full of rocking tunes and little to no frills. They played a tight 16-song setlist that hit nearly every solo album by Bruce, except Tattooed Millionaire and Skunkworks. There were some deep cuts and the classics you’d expect from Bruce’s solo material.

If you’re not in the know about the band, Bruce Dickinson’s solo band (he called them The Mandrake Project on-stage, they were also known as the House Band From Hell) is comprised of Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Chris Declerq (guitars), Phillip Naslund (guitars), Tanya O’Callaghan (bass), Dave Moreno (drums), and Mistheria (keyboards).

Here’s the setlist they jammed through courtesy of our friends at

Bruce Dickinson Setlist The Observatory, Santa Ana, CA, USA 2024, The Mandrake Project

How Did Bruce Dickinson Sound On Vocals?

Considering the only time I’ve heard Bruce sing live was with Iron Maiden, I can safely say that how he’s singing for these solo tunes has never been better. Even though his voice has gotten deeper with age, Bruce hasn’t really lost a step, particularly with this material that’s coming from later in his career. The vocals sound like the studio tracks with some additions like screams and other extensions. It’s a perfect complement to the way his voice sounds, as he’s doing material recorded in the ’90s and ’00s. Considering that some of these songs were recorded almost 30 years ago, that’s still mighty impressive.

The mix of songs for this show was nice with four from The Chemical Wedding, four from The Mandrake Project, three from Balls to Picasso, two from Accident of Birth, two from Tyranny of Souls, and one cover. The only disappointing thing is that he’s not playing any tracks from Tattooed Millionaire. Bruce has even come out and say that they won’t be playing any surprises from that album, I guess he doesn’t really like it. As a longtime fan of his, that album still has its merits, but I get it.

However, that just means we have more time for his other albums, which are varied, and absolutely awesome. If you haven’t listened to his solo material much, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s not just Iron Maiden-lite or some thrown together thing. This is a completely different beast of an artist getting to stretch his creative muscles in a different way.

But What About The Actual Show?

The show itself was pretty bare-bones. You had a band, their instruments, and a light rig. There was no screen, no fancy visuals, just the music. For bigger venues and shows, that might change based on where you see the band, but here, it was just the audience and the band. That feeling of intimacy feels like it really aided the performance with Bruce complementing the crowd multiple times. People in the room were definitely into the solo material. As for the flow of the setlist, they did a magnificent job picking their spots to have some of the more high-energy songs in his solo catalog. The quirk of not starting off your The Mandrake Project tour with songs from that album also felt like a conscious but welcomed choice.

The only misfire I can think of was the cover of “Frankenstein” that they did near the middle of the set. Going with an instrumental cover is always an interesting choice, and it felt like the audience took a break during this performance. The band looked like they were having a blast and Bruce started jamming on a theremin, so it’s a fine trade-off. It was all octane after that anyway with some absolutely smashing performances of “Gods of War”, “The Alchemist”, and “Darkside of Aquarius”.

16 Songs, All Killer, With A Live First

It looked like we were just going to get the same setlist as the first night at the Whiskey until the encore. After the epic twosome of “The Alchemist” and “Darkside of Aquarius” we got the band back on stage for a rousing performance of “Navigate the Seas of the Sun” from Tyranny of Souls. According to Bruce, this was the THIRD time they had ever played the song as a band. It was a magical performance of a stunningly beautiful track.

After that they ripped through “an absolute nightmare” in “Book of Thel”. The nightmare being the subject matter of the song, not the actual performance. Because this was about as hard and heavy as Bruce Dickinson gets with his solo material. I was worried that they wouldn’t get to my absolute favorite Bruce song in “The Tower”. They had played it the second night at the Whisky, but not the first. As soon as Tanya O’Callaghan got to center stage with her bass in hand, I knew they were busting it out. After some band introductions, the legendary bass line began and we got a rousing performance of the track.

I think the coolest thing about this solo tour is that you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get. Bruce even said as much in the interview we did with him about The Mandrake Project. It’s not going to be the same exact show every night. It even looks like the thrill of playing these smaller venues is aiding the performance on stage.

For the price of the show, and the material being played, this might be the best value in heavy metal right now. You’re getting tracks that people haven’t heard live in over 20 years plus material from The Mandrake Project, which just adds to the overall show. There aren’t many frills to the show, but Bruce and Co. know how to put on a good set for the crowd.

My personal highlights were “Accident of Birth”, “Rain on the Graves”, “The Alchemist”, “Darkside of Aquarius”, “Book of Thel”, and “The Tower”. The whole show was fantastic and well worth seeing, but those tracks all stood above the rest.

Grab tickets for the upcoming shows on The Mandrake Project tour here and also check out the comic book series to go with the album.

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