Has it really been 23 years since Iron Maiden's incredible World Slavery Tour conquered the planet? It seems like it was just yesterday when, as a junior in high school, I attended my first Iron Maiden concert during their Beast On The Road Tour of 1982. They opened for The Scorpions that night, and I remember not being overly impressed with their short opening set. That was mostly due to the excruciatingly loud and muddled sound mix, and the fact that I was not yet familiar with most of the band's material. That tour, however, would be the last time that Iron Maiden would ever have to serve as another band's opening act.
The following year's World Piece Tour was a completely different beast. On the heels of their successful Piece Of Mind album, Iron Maiden were now dominating the world as a polished headlining act. With new frontman Bruce Dickinson now having a whole tour under his belt, the band went for broke with the following year's World Slavery Tour. That tour, and the follow-up live album and video, Live After Death, are still considered to be some of the greatest heavy metal spectacles ever put on tape. Now that the original VHS video has finally gotten its due transfer to DVD, you can all judge for yourselves.
Live After Death captures performances from Iron Maiden's legendary four night stand at Long Beach Arena, California, during the band's massive 1984-1985 World Slavery Tour, which tallied 193 concerts worldwide. The tour featured a spectacular Egyptian-themed stage set that was based on their most recent Powerslave album. There are elements of their stage show that seem a bit cheesy by today's standards, but it was quite revolutionary for 1983. I could not imagine having to haul all of that gear around the globe, especially through all of those Eastern Bloc countries they conquered. Their tour manager must have been some kind of genius – or lunatic.
The concert begins with a recording of Winston Churchill's famous 1940 speech encouraging British resistance in the face of a potential Nazi invasion. This was the perfect prelude to the first song of the night, "Aces High", which tells the tale of a British RAF pilot fighting against the German Luftwaffe during the WWII Battle of Britain. I'll never forget the first time I put on my freshly minted Powerslave album back in 1984 and first heard that monstrous opening guitar riff for "2 Minutes To Midnight". It blew me away as much as it did these Long Beach concertgoers when they unleashed it here.
From there, the setlist works its way back in time hitting a few Piece Of Mind tracks before returning to two final Powerslave songs, the epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and the title track. It is during the song "Powerslave" that a giant mummified Eddie comes out to reek havoc onstage. I swear that never gets old. After the obligatory "Number Of The Beast" performance, they lay down an incredible performance of "Hallowed Be Thy Name", which was one of the show highlights. If you need any more convincing that Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are one of the best heavy metal guitar duos to ever grace a concert stage, then just watch them do their thing on these two Number Of The Beast classics.
I was kind of surprised that they focused so heavily on their pre-Bruce Dickinson, self-titled, debut album to close out the show. Their second album, Killers, also pre-Dickinson, was completely ignored on this video, and was mostly ignored on the tour. The explosive title track from Iron Maiden closes out the first set, and then "Running Free" and "Sanctuary", from that same album, eventually bring the encore set to an explosive finale. I much prefer these live versions over the original Paul Di'Anno-sung album versions. Di'Anno was a little too punk sounding for my taste, and Dickinson's leather-lunged lead vocals are what really gave Iron Maiden their signature sound.
Live After Death was originally shot on 35mm film, which gave it a superior look to most concert videos at the time. Unfortunately, this DVD transfer does not offer a significant improvement over the original VHS picture. The colors are somewhat washed out, and there is still significant grain to fight your way through. The audio is where you really reap the benefits of this new DVD transfer. Along with the original PCM stereo mix, a new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is provided, which sounds crisp, clear, and thunderous. Each instrument stands out well in the mix, and Murray and Smith's guitars are appropriately mixed to their respective sides of the stage.
If the original 90-minute concert is not enough for you, you also get a bonus disk loaded with over three hours worth of the following material:
1. The History of Iron Maiden – Part 2 (Documentary).
2. Behind the Iron Curtain (Documentary and live footage shot during Maiden's historic tour of Poland and other parts to the Eastern Bloc in 1984).
3. Rock in Rio '85 (Live footage).
4. 'Ello Texas (Interviews and live footage).
5. Artwork Gallery, tour program, tour dates and photo gallery.
6. Promotional clips for "Aces High" and "2 Minutes To Midnight".
Live After Death is considered by most fans to be THE definitive Iron Maiden concert video – and this gets no argument from me. It is truly amazing. But definitely don't sleep on the band's more recent concert videos like Rock In Rio and Death On the Road, especially if you love their post-1990's work as much as I do.
This one is a no-brainer Iron Maiden fans. Get this DVD now!
01. Churchill Speech/Aces High
02. 2 Minutes To Midnight
03. The Trooper
05. Flight Of Icarus
06. Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
08. Number Of The Beast
09. Hallowed Be Thy Name
10. Iron Maiden
11. Run to The Hills
12. Running Free