Iron Maiden: Live After Death is five hours of Maiden madness, from 1980s show footage, to candid tour bus antics, to present-day interviews with the band and crew.
The main concert footage represents a four-day stint at Long Beach Arena in Los Angeles, part of the World Slavery Tour. The shows were recorded on 35mm film. Though the footage has been technologically tinkered with and is now presented in much higher quality, it retains a retro feel that serves it well.
Iron Maiden puts on a hell of a show. There’s spandex, there’s huge hair, there’s plenty of pyrotechnics and smoke, and, of course, there’s Eddie. The band’s iconic mascot is reincarnated for the tour as a titanic mummy, looming over the band with a mouthful of rubber snakes. He is, as singer Bruce Dickinson fondly recalls in a present-day interview, “a masterpiece of kitsch.”
It is this appreciation for kitsch, and for balls-out, unabashed theatricality, that makes Dickinson and his band mates so entertaining to watch. Well, that and the fact that they totally rock. The DVD includes concert footage from LA, Rio de Janeiro, San Antonio and various cities in Poland, and no matter where they are playing, the band ends up dripping with sweat. They clearly enjoy the job, but it obviously requires a lot of work.
In the bonus feature History of Iron Maiden, Part 2, the band and crew members recall the World Slavery Tour and give their modern, ahem, mature takes on both the hard work involved and the inevitable shenanigans. One amusing account, corroborated by several interviewees and complimented by old footage, involves a mighty battle between fencing and karate.
Perhaps the most shocking thing is the intense work schedule the band kept during the early ‘80s: they spent 50 weeks out of the year rehearsing, recording or touring. After a two-week Christmas holiday, they returned to work. Of course, even during the work weeks they found time to peruse local pub scenes. And they spent time recording in the Bahamas, which probably beats a cubicle, any day.
Aside from the music itself, the best thing about this two-disc set is the way the band and crew members relate to the camera, not in formal interview settings, but while they’re just sitting around. In Behind the Iron Curtain, a one-hour documentary about the band’s experiences in Poland, there is quite a bit of footage from the tour bus. The passengers laugh and joke a lot. They peer out the window like excited children. They make goofy faces at the camera. In short, they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, which is refreshing. They also recount strange tales, such as how they once came to play “Smoke on the Water” for a large group of enthusiastic guests at a Polish wedding.
A hidden bonus is the generous amount of audience footage. Denim vests and fried hair abound, from Warsaw to Los Angeles. The collective fashion sense is definitely chuckle-worthy by today’s standards, but don’t forget that, in 1984, they looked totally bitchin’.
Iron Maiden: Live After Death is a must-see for any Maiden fan. Die-hard devotees will appreciate the behind-the-scenes and other documentary footage. Casual fans will develop a deeper appreciation for the band. And all will enjoy the rock.