Just as their fellow UK metallers had in the past, Iron Maiden was improving with every release. 1984 marked the release of their fifth, album Powerslave. Considered by many to be a top 3 album in the band's discography, Powerslave not only had the band gaining more and more fans, but also had Iron Maiden embarking on the longest tour they had ever done. The tour, dubbed World Slavery Tour, was to be over two years in length, and had Maiden playing shows all over the earth, including countries behind the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union, nations like Poland.
The year: 1985. The night: March 17. The Location: Long Beach, California. For the fourth straight night, fans had packed Long Beach Arena to see Iron Maiden perform. But this night was special. It was here in Long Beach that the band was to record their first ever live album (as Maiden Japan had only been an EP). So there was definitely a lot of excitement in the air, not only for fans, but for the band as well. To this very day, Iron Maiden considers themselves as a band who is most powerful on stage, and the new release, to be titled Live after Death, displays that power perfectly. The album also contained another disc, containing 5 recordings from a show in the Hammersmith Odeon in November of 1984.
Live After Death is by far, one of the best live albums I have ever listened to. Right from the opening moments of the album, through to the end, it's clear why Maiden consider themselves to be more of a live band than a studio band. The energy displayed by both the band and the crowd is phenomenal. The high level of energy is especially evident in classic songs like Aces High and The Trooper, songs the crowd really gets into. There is never a dull moment throughout either CDs, even through longer songs such as Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Powerslave. Despite this being their fourth show in four nights in the same venue, none of the band members show any signs of fatigue or boredom. Rather, they're just as strong as they would be on any given night.
Of all Iron Maiden's tours, the World Slavery Tour has to have my favourite setlists. As I was not around to see Iron Maiden on tour during the tour, Live After Death is a godsend for me. It is because of this album I can hear some of my favourite songs performed live. And I am not let down, as songs such as Aces High, Powerslave, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 2 Minutes to Midnight, and Hallowed Be Thy Name are all present. These renditions of the songs are absolutely amazing, and definitely worth hearing if you haven't already. Of course, the band also plays their greatest hits of the time. Crowd favourites like The Trooper, Run to the Hills, The Number of the Beast, and an 8 minute version of Running Free, complete with crowd interaction, screaming, chatting, and all that fun stuff, are also found on the album. Some of the songs found on the album are even better than their studio counterparts. Tracks such as Flight of Icarus or Run to the Hills, which may have been a little on the dull side on the full length LP's, are definitely more powerful than ever before.
Each member of the band is in top form for the recording. None of Bruce, Adrian, Dave, Steve, or Nicko ever misses a beat through over two hours of music. The guitars are nice and precise. The drumming pounds through the ears of everyone in the stadium. The infectious basslines race through your heart. But most impressive is the mighty Bruce Dickinson. His vocal talents are obvious, as his soaring, operative vocal techniques definitely hold the same intensity that they do in the studio. Singing, shouting, screaming, whatever needs to be done gets done, and at a high level. In addition, Bruce certainly seems to be enjoying himself and his job as a frontman as he chats with the crowd. The closing track off CD one, Running Free, has the most crowd interaction of the album, and is pretty interesting, sometimes amusing to listen to.
Strangely, Iron Maiden has released a handful of live albums. You've got Live After Death, Maiden England, Live and Donnington, A Real Live/Dead One, Rock in Rio, and Death on the Road. I'm not really sure how what they're thinking, as they've definitely got enough by now. Anyways, Live After Death definitely takes the honours as the best of them all. With over two hours of music, Iron Maiden's 1985 release has everything you could ask for. With, exciting renditions of classic songs, and brilliant performances, Live After Death is quite a fun listen. Missing Iron Maiden on tour this year? A live release from the band is the highest compensation you could get, and if you're actually going to heed my advice, pick up Live After Death, an essential Maiden release. Oh, and the cover art is quite cool too.
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
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