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This album is the slightly older and uglier twin sister of “A Real Live One”, which was a fairly decent live album, thought the vocals were a bit rough at times and “Wasted Years” wasn’t on the set. As everyone is sure to remember, 1993-1994 is a period that lives in infamy, for it was when Bruce Dickinson left the band high and dry (though technically Maiden had lost its edge since Adrian Smith quit) and the entire Maiden sound was thrown for a loop. Part of the foreshadowing of these events can be readily observed in the poor performance and lack of sound quality on this release, which consists of only pre-1986 Maiden.
The obvious problem here is Bruce’s utterly terrible renditions of the Paul Di’anno material. One thing that I am thankful for is that Bruce has spared us his god awful rendition of Wrathchild and all of my other favorite songs off the revolutionary “Killers” LP; however he has taken the occasional to butcher nearly every song off the debut album. The least offensive of the bunch include “Sanctuary” where he is not required to go very high and thus can spare us his overtly dirty and sloppy high notes (he used to hit them flawlessly) and “Transylvania” where he doesn’t sing at all. “Running Free” is sung very sloppily and has too many damned ad lib parts (sing the damned song the right way Bruce” and the self-titled song is almost as sloppy. “Prowler” is out of tune and “Remember Tomorrow” has some of the most god awful attempts at a Di’anno scream I’ve ever heard.
Bruce’s strength as a singer was always when doing that quasi-operatic tenor voice that he helped pioneer, he is definitely not capable of pulling off a Rob Halford, I don’t care how hard he tries. As such, his better performances are on songs where this doesn’t occur, which is primarily the “Piece of Mind” material. The two highlights of this concert are “Where Eagles Dare” and “The Trooper”, although “Hallowed be thy name” is also pulled of decently.
Another aspect of this CD where things fall flat is Janick Gers’ guitar playing, which is all over the damned place. His solos are highly unorganized and downright sloppy. I can picture him spending the better part of them doing far too many behind the back tosses and show boating through gesticulation instead of concentrating on playing the right damned notes the way Dave Murray usually does. The intro riff on “2 minutes to midnight” is done wrong, as one of the two notes in the 4th interval pattern (the same kind of chords used in Man on the Silver Mountain) is actually played, resulting in a very empty sound. You’ll take note that he does this the whole time, even as Dave Murray comes in playing it properly, indicating that this was probably intentional, though this doesn’t make it sound any better.
But even worse than the severely poor performances by 2 of the 5 members is the damned set list they’ve concocted. How many times do we have to hear stuff from the debut and “Number of the Beast”? We’ve got great songs off of Piece of Mind and Powerslave such as “Flight of Icarus”, “Die with your boots on”, “Aces High” and “Powerslave” which are short enough to work well live yet are not to be found here. I’m tired of hearing stuff off “Number of the Beast” live all the time, and as good as the stuff from the debut is, it’s also way overplayed.
To rabid fans and Iron Maiden collectors who want to own everything they’ve put out (I’m one of you), look for this in the bargain bin or try to track down the 2 CD reissue at a discount price, this isn’t worth blowing $18 on. For those who wish only to purchase quality Maiden live stuff and liked the set lists they had during this era, the VHS of “Raising Hell” features better renditions of Maiden classics (save Wrathchild which of course Bruce completely butchers). But for true quality live material, check out Rock in Rio, that’s where the band definitely recaptured the spirit of what is found in the studio releases.