Iron Maiden: Rock In Rio (2002)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/24/02
Cast: Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Nicko McBrain, Janick Gers

As my friend Nancy put it, "For a bunch of old guys, they rock!" That pretty much sums up my sentiment as Iron Maiden plays to their largest crowd yet - 250,000 fans in Rio De Janiero on the last night of their "Brave New World" tour. With Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith back in the band, the group crackles with intensity and nostalgia. Their new three-guitar lineup gives the band a thick and heavy sound, with more musical texture than their previous live shows. Maiden fans will certainly enjoy the material, but it's still no "Live After Death" (1985), which is bar-none the finest concert video production ever made. Not surprisingly, the show is shot on video, so the colors, contrast, and saturation suffer accordingly. Reportedly, band founder Steve Harris was unhappy with the version that was originally broadcast live, and re-edited the footage for the DVD release. Apart from some bizarre and awkward cuts, it's a competent job, but it still lacks professional polish. The audio mix is also less than optimal, for whatever reasons. Ironically, it actually sounds like a real concert, with the sound fading in and out in waves. Occasionally Bruce's vocals are drowned out and electronic garbage is often floating around in the background.

In addition to the concert footage, a supplemental disc features candid band interviews and "a day in the life" footage before and after the show. These are quite fun and give a lot of insight into the various personalities in the band, and the pressures of the industry. Band photographer Ross Halfin also presents a satisfying photo diary of the band's South American tour, providing some insight into his long-time relationship with the blokes. Overall, the packaging is nice, although it features the lamest case design I've ever seen. The unconventional and extremely bizarre disc locking mechanism will get destroyed by anyone who removes the disc more than a dozen times. Interesting, but impractical.

And now, permit me to turn into a pathetic fan boy. This concert and this video are very special to me. I was thrilled beyond words when Bruce and Adrian came back into the fold for "Brave New World" (2000) and was ecstatic when they decided to tour the Pacific Northwest. The last time Maiden played in Seattle was in 1995 for "The X Factor" (1995) with new vocalist Blaze Bayley. It was both invigorating and depressing to see the band reduced to playing in a skanky bar for that show, and they skipped the Pacific Northwest altogether for their following tour. "Brave New World" brought with it the promise of a large arena tour, and I was itching to see the old lineup in action again. Even though I was suffering from a sinus infection, I dutifully waited in line for hours to get a ticket to the show, along with a handful of other old, fat, and balding troopers. Ah yes, my so-called peers... But then, as fate would have it, I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured appendix when the show finally came around. I'd been waiting ten years to see Adrian and Bruce together again, and now I was physically incapable of going to the show. By the time I had recovered, their North American tour had finished, and the only other chance I had to see them was in Tokyo. But I wasn't about to do that in my still weakened state.

So now I've finally seen the show that was so cruelly denied to me. While it rekindles the spark of their glory days, the band is definitely beginning to show some wear. I was utterly shocked when I saw Nicko McBrain running around stage, as he's gained as much weight over the last ten years as I have. Scary. Hearing "Wrathchild" was a wonderful surprise, since the band hardly ever plays anything off of "Killers" (1981) and the last time I heard it live was in 1984 during their "World Slavery Tour" in Denver (they played an extra forty-five minute set when Twisted Sister had to cancel due to an injury). "Sign Of The Cross" took me completely by surprise because I literally didn't recognize it. Somehow, I've managed to completely block "The X Factor" and "Virtual XI" (1998) from my memory and convinced myself that the album prior to "Brave New World" was "Fear Of The Dark" (1992). Bruce handles the vocals well, and it comes together quite nicely. "The Trooper" is probably the most surreal experience, with both Adrian and Janick soloing over each other. Very bizarre. Both Janick and Steve break out their acoustic guitars later on, and Janick's guitar lead in "Blood Brothers" is very inspiring. Eddie shows up in his "Ed Hunter" incarnation, but sadly comes off as being rather silly. His participation in the band needs to evolve as their music does. The "Wicker Man" gag at the end of the show during "Iron Maiden" is amusing, but also disappointing due to the lack of pyrotechnics. (the Wicker Man needs to burn!) And when did Steve Harris decide to take tips from DEVO and start bouncing up and down in place? It looks really silly and spoils some of the intensity of his performance. But maybe I just need to lighten up. The band obviously has.