Do you hate bands that take forever to put out new material, leave you hanging for years, rarely hit your hometown for a show? If so, there’s no way possible you could have an issue with legendary British heavy metal warriors Iron Maiden, who put out a new package for their fans every 10 minutes or so.
That’s only a slight exaggeration. One of the most frequently read entries on our site is the look at the band’s “From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010,” a double-disc compilation of the last 20 years of Maiden tracks. That was only a half year ago. The release was a tad on the excessive and unnecessary side, but if you’re a dork like me, you bought it anyway. That’s how completists and unabashed fans do things. Even if we don’t really need it, we grab it anyway. Now, less than a year later, we have yet another Iron Maiden collection that’ll be separating the band’s disciples from their money.
In stores is a new two-CD and two-DVD package “En Vivo!” a live package showcasing the band’s stop in Santiago, Chile, April 10, 2011, on their tour to support their last studio album “The Final Frontier.” That’s right, another live package. Put this one alongside all-time classic “Live After Death,” “Donnington Live 2002,” “Another Live One,” “Another Dead One,” “Rock in Rio,” “Flight 666,” and I’m sure I’m forgetting some. These guys love putting out live documents, and in their defense, they’re an absolute must-see band in concert, a group that every heavy metal fan should make a point to see at least once. I have taken people to see Maiden before who had no interest in the band or in heavy metal, and they walked away converted. They’re a force to behold. But do we need so many live albums?
That question aside, we have to judge these releases on their importance relevancy, and quality, and in the case of “En Vivo!” it’s a stunner. The fact that these guys in their 50s and 60s – frontman Bruce Dicksinson, bassist Steve Harris, guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers, drummer Nicko McBrain, and live synth player Michael Kenney — can withstand such demanding tour schedules, still put out quality albums, and absolutely dominate live is practically a thumb to the eye of science. It should be impossible, but Maiden consistently prove it’s not. The 17 tracks spread over these two CDs sound tremendous, and unlike some of their past concert collections, they left in some of the warts. To boot, dynamic singer Dickinson cites “Two Minutes to Midnight” as being from 1982, when it was actually on 1984’s “Powerslave.” Also at one point on “The Evil That Men Do,” he flubs a line, but he recovers nicely and forges on. Those easily could have been edited, but they left them in, and the whole thing is better for it. I like that their human side comes through.
The set is heavily concentrated on newer material, especially the “Frontier” album. That should be expected as Maiden long have insisted they won’t be a nostalgia act and want to tour to support new music. If you have a problem with that, they obviously have enough other live albums to satisfy you. If you want to hear how their modern-era songs work live, check out openers “Satellite 15” and “The Final Frontier,” songs that seem they’d be more fitting in the middle of a set, but whatever; “El Dorado,” where Dickinson’s charisma spills over; “The Talisman,” that is glorious on the stage; and “Coming Home,” a song that’s a little mushy on record but punchier here. They also dip back into “The Wicker Man” and “Blood Brothers” from 2000’s kick-ass “Brave New World,” as well as the title cut from “Dance of Death.” We get nothing from “A Matter of Life and Death,” which I find odd. Maybe next time.
If you want some classics, they’re here too. They’re pace-changers more than pillars of the set, but at least non-daring fans got a nice dose of aforementioned “Midnight” and “Evil”; anthemic “The Trooper” and “Number of the Beast”; early era throwbacks “Iron Maiden” and “Running Free,” their long-time set closer; and a haunting version of “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” Anyone bitching they didn’t do enough classics should have caught them on the “Somewhere Back in Time” tour, or see them this summer when they dig back into their past again.
If you buy the DVD version, you also get an 88-minute documentary “Behind the Beast” that gives you an in-depth look at the band, as well as the “Satellite 15 … The Final Frontier” promotional video and a making-of segment.
So while it may seem like another way for Maiden to make money off their faithful, it’s way more than that. It’s an excellent concert album that finds a band in its late stages but sounding as fresh and spry as ever. We all should wish to be this active and energetic when we’re their age, and this is a true victory for one of metal’s greatest bands of all time. Yes, this live set is worth your money, and played back to back with “Live After Death,” you can take a thorough trip through the Iron Maiden’s amazing history.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.ironmaiden.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.ironmaiden.com/envivo/