IRON MAIDEN - "ROCK IN RIO" (EMI)
When Bruce Dickinson rejoined Iron Maiden, I think a lot of people were happy. Ask anyone who they think was Iron Maiden's prime vocalist and they'll mention good ol' Bruce. Them mentioning Blaze Bayley is about as unlikely as people considering Tommy Bolin to be the number one guitarist in Deep Purple. The reunion album, "Brave New World", didn't disappoint either. It contained some prime tracks and really washed away the taste of two mediocre albums that came before.
On January 19th 2001, Iron Maiden played at the Rock in Rio festival in Brazil, attended by some quarter of a million rock fans. By releasing this on double CD and DVD, there may perhaps have been reason to erase from people's memories the rather unnecessary "Live at Donington" and "A Real Live One" (I personally rather liked "A Real Dead One"). Iron Maiden is more than capable of producing a good live album, which was attested by "Live after Death" (1985), unarguably one of the finest live albums of all time. So what does "Rock in Rio" bring?
A lot of tracks from "Brave New World", for one: "The Wicker Man", "Ghost of the Navigator", "Brave New World", "Blood Brothers", "The Mercenary" and "Dream of Mirrors". That's a lot from one album, around 40 minutes in fact, and not all of it equally grabbing. "Blood Brothers" should be there, obviously, and the title track. But the other tracks are too long or not good enough or are only interesting in the second half ("Dream of Mirrors").
One of the highlights of the album is "Fear of the Dark", possibly the best track of the "lesser Bruce albums" (these being "No Prayer for the Dying" and "Fear of the Dark"). Hearing 250.000 people sing along the the chorus makes for a special experience. Is the audience sound real, though, I found myself wonder? If such a huge number of people is screaming the lyrics to a song, the distance for the sound to travel to the people in the rear and then the sound of the people in the rear to travel back to the mics would cause a delay of a full second or two. It would sound like total shit. But it doesn't, in fact it sounds more or less perfectly synchronized. Additionally, the crowd woo-woo-woo's entire parts of the musical parts along, all perfectly in sync of course. Whether it's wholly, partly or not at all fake, it doesn't really matter. It sounds damn impressive.
I was also surprised by "Sign of the Cross" and "The Clansman". These Blaze Bayley period tracks are actually much worth listening to. However, I didn't really need yet another "Iron Maiden", another "Run to the Hills" and "Number of the Beast". If I ever see Iron Maiden in concert again, I wouldn't be disappointed at all if they left those off. By now every single rock fan in the world has probably heard them a gazillion times. Why not some oldies like "To Tame a Land" or "Losfer Worlds (Big 'Orra)"? No doubt you could come up with another favourite as well, not on any of the earlier live albums.
So, no, it's not as good as "Live After Death", but I didn't expect it would be. It's not perfect, but it's more than good enough and a worthy document of modern day Iron Maiden. It's also got some multimedia thrown in: Video clips of "Brave New World" and "A Day in the Life". Nice.
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Written April 2002
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