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Reviewed by R. David Smola
r. Peabody, Sherman, fire up the WABAC (which really was the wayback) machine – we are going back to 1984: the land of mullets, spandex and leather, and the time when Iron Maiden conquered the world. Although not an original thought, there is no doubt that Marty DeBergi, fictional director of the documentary “This Is Spinal Tap,” had to have seen footage of the Maiden around this period and used a whole bunch of the vibe as fodder for his work. As one of the few left standing from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Iron Maiden stands as the heavyweight champion of the world. With minimal airplay, a tireless work ethic and an extremely loyal following, Maiden is still a very big deal and their influence can be heard in the work of many who have come along since.
If you can get past the looks of it all, some of the clichéd stage antics and the goofy, sometimes funny between-song ramblings of the hyper Bruce Dickinson, the concert film reveals why the band was (and remains) a fabulous live act. The formula for their success includes crucial ingredients like classic stadium anthems, a distinctive (two and sometimes three) guitar attack, a relentless energy level, and a presentation that communicates the fun of what they do combined with a professionalism in their craft. No, they don’t make widgets, they blast out metaphor-laced and literature-based metal classics like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Flight of the Icarus.”
This 90-minute set, culled from 4 nights at Long Beach Arena in Los Angeles during their exhaustive 1984 world tour, features 13 tracks divided amongst the band’s 1980 debut (which featured original vocalist Paul Di’Anno – they skipped the second Di’Anno record, Killers), the hugely successful Number of the Beast, 1983’s Piece of Mind and the record they were touring behind, Powerslave. Of course “Run to the Hills,” “The Trooper” and “Number of the Beast” are represented in the concert, as expected; but the new songs at the time, like openers “Aces High” and “2 Minutes to Midnight,” hold their own against the hits. “2 Minutes” has since joined the other songs as a concert staple. “Running Free” sounds great until the middle section, which becomes an elongated crowd participation number. I suppose at the show it felt good, but it just goes on too long, even if kinetic drummer Nicko McBrain works his ass off by banging away as Dickinson goes on forever with the whole crowd sing along section.
The other disc is worth the price alone because it contains the fascinating documentary about the making of Powerslave and this absolutely exhaustive world tour. Rod Smallwood, the band’s longtime manager and part inspiration for “This is Spinal Tap’s” beleaguered but savvy manager Ian Faith, is a bigger character than almost anyone else affiliated with the band, and his stories are fascinating. His commitment to his band is uncompromising, and Maiden is more like a big heavy metal family then just a band. Other extras include their awesome 45-minute set from Rock in Rio, another documentary about their tour “Behind the Iron Curtain,”a 15-minute short which includes concert footage with low quality audio called “Hello Texas,” and videos for “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “Aces High.” Sherman, Mr. Peabody, thanks for the trip back to when Maiden ruled the land.