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Iron Maiden are just about the greatest live band ever. I should know, having seen them fairly recently on their 2003 tour, though the performance was a tad too short. Like any band, they are subject to good nights, and bad nights. Unfortunately, this is one of those bad nights.
It's been about four or five years since I picked up this live album, and my verdict is in: it blows. Well, ok, I don't hate it (hence the 60 rating), but pretty much every live Maiden album in existance is better than this (and yes that includes A Real Live Dead One), and why anyone thinks this is the greatest thing that Maiden has ever done is beyond me.
First of all, I don't know who is reponsible for keeping all instruments and other variables at their proper volume, be it Martin Birch, or the sound engineer, or mixer, but were they fucking stoned when they produced/engineered/mixed this? Right when Aces High kicks in, I can tell something's not right because whoever is playing the upper harmony guitar part is much louder than it should be, and I can't hear the other harmony.
Then 2 Minutes To Midnight comes on, and it is much slower than the studio version. 2 Minutes To Midnight should not be slowed down when played live. Next up, three Piece Of Mind classics: The Trooper, Revelations, & Flight Of Icarus. These come off just as good as the studio versions, but not better. Revelations is missing a harmonic during the fast interlude
As far as the band's performance goes, they all do sound like they are giving it their all, but Bruce tries too hard sometimes (especially on the Beast stuff, he just can't quite hit the high notes on Hallowed). Also, I'm not impressed with Dave's improvised solo on 22 Acacia Avenue. Improv solos are so fucking annoying, especially if the one they cut in the studio was excellent like the one on 22 Acacia Avenue. Oh, and people might as well stop complaining about giving Adrian back the solo on Hallowed Be Thy Name, because not even he can get the damn thing right.
Nonetheless this album does have its moments: While one half of the Powerslave stuff comes off as complete crap, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and title track reign pure fucking destruction on Long Beach. Die With Your Boots on lays the original to absolute waste, and the "If you're gonna die..." intro still gets me pumped up.
Last but not least there is "The Phantom! Of The Opera!" This is, as far as I'm concerned, the definitve version of this song. The guitars are loud and heavy enough, and Bruce's vocals get this one absolutely right. Paul Di'anno can complain all he wants about Bruce not sounding as having the right voice for his songs (what is it with singer's complaining about replacements singing their stuff, anyway? Probably bitterness.) but Bruce nails this one perfectly. "Keep your distance walk away don't take his baaeaaaait. Don't you swaaaaaaay!
But yea, other than those 4 songs, I don't know what the fuss is about. Also, of these shows were sold out right? Well if this is what a sold out Long Beach Arena audience sounds like, I am not impressed. They seem to enjoy whislting more than screaming out the words when Bruce tells them to, which is fucking lame.
In conclusion, this one is worth hearing, but if you wanna hear Iron Maiden on some excellent nights, go get Rock In Rio, which is the new canonical example of Maiden concert madness. Alternatively you could pick up the Eddie's Archive box set, which has Beast Over Hammersmith, which is hands down and pants down the greatest album ever recorded.