With a pair of successful albums under his belt, Bruce Dickinson was now comfortable with his role in Iron Maiden, and it couldn't have come at a better time. While Paul Di'Anno's edgy voice and punky attitude was perfect for when the New Wave of British Metal was still underground, by the time their latest release, Powerslave, came out, Iron Maiden's had already grown accustomed to selling out arenas, and the swashbuckling Bruce Dickinson was the ideal frontman. It was the Long Beach Arena, over four nights in March, where most of this show was recorded, near the end of their "World Slavery Tour." The tour was massive and worldwide (even going behind the Iron Curtain, as we'll see in the bonus material), it included a triumphant week-long residency at New York's Radio City Music Hall, and by the time they hit the West Coast they logged-in seven months of practice.
Sir Winston Churchill's inspiring "We shall fight on the beaches" speech kicks off the intro to "Aces High," a high intensity number that immediately sets the tone of the show. The opener and the song that follows, "Two Minutes To Midnight," are both singles and highlights from their latest, Powerslave, and it's easy to see why fans who didn't already own it would go out and buy it the next day. Bruce takes a moment to greet the fans and announce the next song, "The Trooper, from Piece of Mind. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith's twin guitars are locked-in and lightning fast, the first lead going to Adrian, who's more bluesy and melodic to Dave's nimble shredding power. Bruce is in full command of the stage, using every inch of it from the front edge to behind the drum kit. Before launching into "Revelations," the singer lets some steam off his chest about all that "satanic" rubbish they were constantly bombarded with. He plays the guitar for this song, picking out the chords while the guitarists double up on the lead.
Founder and bassist, Steve Harris, may have complained that the studio version of "Flight of Icarus" may be too slow, but the Piece of Mind song goes to boot camp when played live. It's one of those cuts that features Steve's signature "galloping" bass, and not only is it a consistent crowd pleaser, it was the first single they released in the States. There was a reason why Spinal Tap tapped into the Maiden madness for inspiration. Sure Aerosmith had an album cover featuring Stonehenge, but tonight the band has practically recreated the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Bruce is teaching the kids about how Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his poem (and their next song) "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" under the influence of hemp. Powerslave's last song is Iron Maiden's nod to the progressive side of metal, as they proudly indulge in a 13-minutes-plus expedition. About half way through the song, when the fog starts to fill the stage, and the lighting trusses lower basking the band in light, is when it starts to hit you that this is all shot in a very cinematic 35 mil, and this is one hell of a show! Bringing the level down to a spooky whisper, the lighters start to light, only for the band to bring it all back with a loud and acrobatic frenzy.
Powerslave's title track is a little boring, but if Bruce's bird mask doesn't wake you up the unleashing of "Eddie" definitely will. The crowd couldn't have been more ready to hear the band's most controversial song, "Number of the Beast." For many in attendance, it was Derek Riggs' cover art for Number of the Beast that instigated the interest in group, and it was that perfect combination of music and imagery that helped them not only capture the moment, but define the genre. Even today, in tattoo shops and Hot Topics everywhere, "Eddie" is all around, and this performance, and this DVD is proof that there's some amazing musicianship to match that iconic mascot. Live After Death was released as a live album of the same name in October of 1985, but unlike the vinyl which cherry-picked from four shows, the DVD offers a full show from the second night, as originally aired on MTV and issued on VHS. By the end of the show, Bruce not only did the Paul Di'Anno songs justice, he found a way to make them his own, and in the process made for a cohesive and landmark set.
Intro: Churchill's Speech
2 Minutes to Midnight
Flight of Icarus
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Number of the Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
Recorded by a huge camera crew and on 35 millimeter film, the concert looks great. It was originally on TV, so they don't apply a fake widescreen, but it looks like the "remaster" added some polish. This release represents a huge improvement from the VHS copies you remember, and while the titles show some wear and tear, that's par for the course, and doesn't hinder the otherwise impressive restoration.
You've got two fantastic options here: the original stereo sound track by long time producer, Martin Birch, or the new 5.1. Surround Sound by Kevin Shirley. Just one of the impressive features is how the guitars are split on each side, giving Dave and Adrian their own space. Steve's bass is deep enough for some rumble, but the low-end doesn't get jumbled with Nick's thunderous drumming.
Iron Maiden really gives you a lot for your money with this one, not only is it packed with features, but "Eddie" dominates the menu art.
History of Iron Maiden - Part 2
Instead of making you buy a separate DVD set, Maiden slap the continuation of their triumphant story here as a bonus.
History of Iron Maiden - The Early Years takes you up to the point of Piece of Mind but this part obviously picks up with the making of Powerslave and the worldwide tour that lead to the live album/VHS we're celebrating here. All members are accounted for as well as comments from Martin Birch and rock photog, Ross Halfin. The doc features plenty of home footage, as well as the Halfin's shots, and ushers you across the map of the world, from Poland, to Canada, across the United States, and down to South America. The highlight is easily the story of "Mission From 'Arry," the b-side for "Two Minutes To Midnight" which is really just a backstage argument secretly taped by Bruce Dickenson.
Behind The Iron Curtain
From their arrival on Lot Air, to their show in front of military and heavy-metal-starved fans, this documentary is not only a great keepsake for the band (with plenty of handheld video footage), but a fascinating look into heavy metal's role in ending the Cold War.
Rock In Rio
Shot on January 11, 1985, this is Iron Maiden not only rocking the 350, 000 people at the Rock in Rio Festival, but absolutely murdering them with their boots on. In the middle of a grueling touring schedule, the band had to fly from Buffalo to Rio, only to have to fly back to New York the next day - and in the meantime, an extremely flu-ish Bruce is blowing his nose on the side of the stage. Despite his health, and despite the degradation of the video quality of the years, this is still an energetic performance that Maiden should be proud of.
Ello' Texas is actually a featurette shot around the Alamo in Texas. Otherwise, we have the music videos for "Aces High" and "2 Minutes To Midnight."
You can choose from the Tour Program, On The Road, In The Studio, Artwork, or Nuts & Bolts (which is really text explaining the technical feat of the tour.
Heavy metal fans have been wearing out their vinyl copies of Live After Death for years, and until recently the CD versions weren't as good. Fans have also been playing/coping with their cruddy VHS copies for years, but this DVD is just what the doctor ordered. With amazing video, sound, band involvement, and wall-to-wall Eddie, this release is a must for any true Maiden fan.
Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?