Iron Maiden and Me. Part III: Live After Death

One of the best live albums of all time, Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death” was recorded during the World Slavery Tour 84/85. During 322 grueling days, they played 191 shows in 24 countries in four continents. The crew began work at 8 am and finished at 2 am on show days and hauled forty plus tons of equipment in six 45-foot trucks. The LP contains multiple pictures that tell the story of a long and seemingly unending tour. We see the band goofing off, having beers, playing football (or soccer for North American readers), sleeping, hugging their kids, making phone calls and rocking the stage. The album was produced, engineered and mixed by Martin Birch (who also engineered the epic Deep Purple “Made in Japan” album.)

Upon getting the album I was afraid the sound was going to be grainy and poppy because the records pressed in Venezuela were known to be of inferior quality to the imported ones. Being a teenager I could only afford the locally pressed albums. So with a bit of anxiety I opened the LP, placed it on the turntable, pressed a button, which placed the needle in the first groove and got transported to an arena in a land far, far away from Caracas. Fortunately the needle didn’t jump out of the turntable from a manufacturing defect and I was sucked into the show right away.

The beautifully engineered album begins with a fade-in of the colossal crowd cheering frantically. A few moments later a tape with Churchill’s famous 1940 speech in the House of Commons “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” plays. A guy in the crowd whistles above the cacophony and then every person seems to get on their feet and holler with all their might as they welcome to the stage the British quintet formed by Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Bruce Dickinson and Nicko McBrain. The attending masses happily provided the band carte blanche to pummel their ears, stimulate their minds and challenge their vocal chords, and to feel part of the Maiden family.

Immediately after Churchill utters the words “we will never surrender!” the bombastic start to “Aces High” makes the crowd jump, as two very loud guitars, an equally loud kick-drum, snare, cymbals combo, and the clankity-clank bass sound of Harris’s Fender smashes them in the face with over a hundred and fifty thousand watts of pure Maiden.

After a few measures Bruce Dickinson comes out of hiding after presumably processing the crowd’s energy and spits it back in the form of powerful vocals, magically pouring out melodies as though they were a warm blanket of awesomeness. The madness begins and you are taken on a hair-raising trip of fighter planes, mariners, troopers, people running to hills, damned children, numbers of beasts and torture devices from centuries of old.

During the instrumental bit of “Revelations,” the crowd’s cheers intensify several times (band: ta-na-na, crowd: haaaaaah; repeat.) Many times I wished I were there to know what was going on that made every person yell. Fortunately the mystery was resolved when I got my hands on the video: Bruce elevates his arms and the crowd responds with increased intensity as if hypnotized. He does this several times. I heard him say in an interview that he tries to make the crowd shrink which means that he works hard to make the connection with every person in the arena, from the people in the front to the ones in the nosebleed sections. In this recording he manages to do it in a way that transcends the limits of the arena and reaches your living room. When you listen to this album you are sucked into this show and feel you are there. And if you play it loud enough, you can experience the vibrations shake your body as well.

In the video you can appreciate the enormity of the set (the design, lighting, amps, props and pyrotechnics) the band’s eclectic attire and Eddie (the band’s mascot.) The Egyptian themed stage contains several sarcophagi, statues, and papyrus with symbols. It feels one is inside a pyramid. The drum set is raised and at that height a walkway surrounds the stage, which Dickinson uses to run on incessantly. The video also shows the energy of the band, the showmanship and the professionalism of one of the hardest working bands in heavy metal today (and one of the most loved.)

Bruce comes out with a mask during “Powerslave” a gigantic mummified Eddie appears behind the drum set shaking uncontrollably amid smoke during “Iron Maiden.”

The show ends with the song “Running Free” and a crowd that yearns for more and a band that could have played another few hours.

In my view, the World Slavery Tour raised the bar for Maiden. Releasing an LP and video of the tour was a great move as it brought the concert to millions of fans in countries the band did not visit and inarguably broadened their loyal fan base.

If you love metal and haven’t heard this album, it is a must for your collection. Or even better, get the video. Or get both. The song “Sanctuary” is not on the LP but it is on the video. If you’re not a metalhead but want to know what the big fuss is regarding the genre, watch the video.

Iron Maiden continues to fill arenas all over the world. Even today their shows are as dazzling as this one. Experiencing them live last year in Atlanta, GA during the Maiden England tour was as if time had stood still. These guys refuse to age and continue to work really hard to make every show an incredible experience for their fans. And for this love and dedication I say Up the Irons!

Atlanta GA 2012

Atlanta GA 2012

Eddie Pyro copy Band Nicko

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W.A.S.P. Concert Review 3/19/10 Orlando, FL

3/19/10 Club Firestone, Orlando.

W.A.S.P. Live. I witnessed their fury for the first time 25 years ago in the small screen, thousands of miles away in my native land of Venezuela. Their song “I Wanna Be Somebody” captivated my teenage mind and I immediately became an admirer. But today I was going to see them in concert up close and personal at a venue so small that I could touch them. The anticipation was exciting! 

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I arrived early enough to catch the first few bands. Of them, I remember the last of the opening bands, “Rain”. They were phenomenal. This Italian metal band rocked. With a style that combines old-school metal and rock ‘n’ roll, a strong stage presence, and excellent musicianship, their set went down like a fresh glass of lemonade on a summer day. 

After the curtain closed, I headed to the outside area to check out the CDs and other goodies for sale by each band. While chatting with the manager of Rain about their tour through America, we heard screeching guitars and bombastic drums blasting in the venue, so I headed back inside to find out if that was a sign that the W.A.S.P. set had begun. Not surprisingly it was the sound check, at a volume from hell, indicative of what we were going to be subjected to very soon. The all-ages crowd began chanting “W.A.S.P.! W.A.S.P.!, W.A.S.P.!” and by doing so they unknowingly gave the go-ahead to be blown to pieces. Surely enough, the curtains opened to a foggy, dimly lit, empty stage. A large screen hung behind the drum set, which was reminiscent of other bands that enhance their show with really cool imagery. I imagined we might be in for a treat, that we were going to witness an additional creative outlet of the band’s translated onto moving pictures, or perhaps a live projection of the crowd in between the videos. But we had to wait another many long moments before the mystery of the screen was to be unleashed.

I secretly wished chairs would magically appear so I could finish my beer sitting comfortably down. But not in this joint. I was in the pit of a heavy metal show, standing up high and totally prepared to rock. But if I could sit down just one more minute… 

And as I stood there watching the stage, curiously trying to figure out if there was a rack of guitars sitting in the back so I could guess the make, an intro began playing and a tall, prominent figure’s profile emerged onto the smoky stage. Its long, black hair, black pants and half-moon saws sticking out from the top of its forearms gave away that we were indeed graced by presence of the one and only: Blackie Lawless. The remaining members of the band joined him immediately after: Doug Blair on guitar, Mike Duda sporting the bass and Mike Dupke on the skins. Quickly they began storming through “On Your Knees”. With the start of the song the screen came alive with a video shot in concert around 1984. In it, I recognized Chris Holmes and Randy Piper on guitars. I was confused, and wondered if Chris and Randy were going to come out from the side of the stage and join them or if it was a prank pulled by Blackie at the current band members. But no, this was no prank. Original videos were played throughout every song of the concert, some of them extremely cheesy, or to put it mildly, passé by today’s standards. The band played in perfect synchronization with the videos, mimicking them in some parts. It felt awkward. I am not sure how Blackie sold this idea to the rest of the band, which borders on the tacky and the embarrassing. But he did. And it did not work. Not for me anyway. After all, this concert was not promoted as “The Commemoration of 27 Years of W.A.S.P.” 

So I decided to ignore the screen. What a good decision that turned out to be. The show was clearly about these four men rocking their hearts out right then and there. Blackie’s voice was in perfect form, the band was tight, and the volume was obnoxiously loud. I could feel the sonic book from the bass drum traveling through my body, and the guitars piercing my brain like tiny shocks of lightning. A terrific metal show experience indeed.

Without missing a beat, they plunged into “Doctor Rocter”, and the crowd went wild as they did with every song. Duda showed us why he was chosen to be part of W.A.S.P. He had incredible precision and technical ability (he plays with his fingers instead of the usual pick in metal bands) and a great stage presence. He performed a very cool Robert-Trujillo-esque move, twirling around and around until the bass was as the same level as his shoulders. Blair used a varied array of LED-lit guitars. Certain frets lit up when pressed. The body of one of the guitars, in the area where the pickups sit, looked like a bright nebula that somehow got sucked into that tiny space. His guitar solo during the song The Idol was peppered in awesomeness. To make it even better, the screen was turned off as soon as he began the solo, and he had the stage and the attention of the audience all to himself. His fingers flew up and down the neck with a feeling worthy of any spectacular blues player, and the metal edge merged itself in these notes in a way evocative of pure beauty.

Dupke had his moment to wow us as well, with a really fast, precise, and excellent little solo. Bang bang, boom boom, crash crash. I wish I could verbalize it for you!

Blackie, with white boots contrasting his otherwise black outfit, and a football jersey with his name on it, was on fire. His voice, impeccable. His presence, excellent as always. His playing, terrific. He is either a vampire or he found the fountain of youth because he rocked without a hitch.

Predictably, the crowd went totally ballistic during “I Wanna Be Somebody” which was sung in its entirety by the audience. Blackie did not sing the pre-chorus or chorus until the last word of the song: “Somebody! Somebody!” and I felt goose bumps from head to toe. The fourteen year old girl in me cried like the girls in the black and white videos of a Beatles concert. 

Cheers to the little girl, cheers to the rockness of W.A.S.P. and cheers to you the reader for experiencing this event with this humble writer. It was a great show worthy of seeing again and again. 

Set List:

  1. On Your Knees
  2. Doctor Rocter
  3. Love Machine
  4. Babylon’s Burning
  5. Wild Child
  6. I Don’t Need No Doctor
  7. Arena of Pleasure
  8. The Idol (crimson idol title track)
  9. I Wanna Be Somebody
  10. Heaven’s Hung in Black
  11. Blind in Texas