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After years of listening and becoming an avid fan of Iron Maiden, my dreams of watching them live was finally fulfilled last year, with the band hitting Singapore as part of their Asian leg of The Final Frontier world tour. Catching one's all-time favourite band can be considered one of the biggest dreams come true, and in typical Maiden fashion, one the tour was done with, the band soon announced the release of a live album recorded on one of their sets during the tour. This definitely left me eagerly anticipating, with the hopes of finally reliving that extremely memorable experience once again.
Say what you want about the quantity of live and compilation albums that Maiden has consistently released over the years, but as soon as Satellite 15 started playing through the stereo, flashbacks of the concert immediately came flooding into my head. The setlist on En Vivo! is identical to the one that was at the Singapore set (despite the band's promise to have a variation and having "something special" for venues that they have never played before), and this also undoubtedly contributed to the nostalgic quality of the album. Of course, unlike the actual gig itself, the audio is unable to capture that whole atmosphere, though suffice to say, the ambience that is presented on En Vivo! is certainly as close as it can get to an actual live setting. The production quality here, as compared to the previous live release of the band, Flight 666 is markedly improved, where each and every single instrument can be clearly heard and none buried in the mix, heightening the sensory experience of the record.
Unfortunately, much as I would like to proclaim every Maiden release as flawless, there are a number of things that has bugged me slightly at times on the album, with the first being the guitar solos of Janick Gers. While Janick has undoubtedly written many a song that have become personal favourites of mine, I personally can't stand the lead style that he has adopted, often ending up slaughtering solos that are at times the trademark of classic songs. Apart from that, there are also some moments where the band sound slightly sloppy, such as the lead lines of Dave Murray and the guitar solo of Adrian Smith on The Wickerman, with Adrian first improvising the opening riff of the song (such that it became somewhat unrecognisable to me) and then the final moments of the solo, where the improvisation also sounded slightly off. And of course, the lack of some personal favourites like Run to the Hills and Wasted Years, but what more could one ask for, right?
That said though, for the most part of the release the band is at the top of their game, especially Bruce Dickinson, constantly pushing and proving his vocal limits. Songs like When the Wild Wind Blows manage to jerk a tear or two from the sheer epic feel of the track (and the memory of catching the band live), and also serve to remind me once more why of all bands that I have listened to so far, Iron Maiden has managed to stay at the top of my favourites list. The littering of classics among post-reunion tracks in the setlist is also enjoyable, and manages to please longtime fans who have followed the band throughout their career.