Review Summary: “And it’s Chile in the dark.”
So here we are. Another two disc live performance from the legendary heavy metal act, adding another to the bands seemingly countless number of live albums and compilations. ‘En Vivo!’ is Iron Maiden’s first live double album since their ‘Flight 666’ documentary/soundtrack release back in 2009. During their Final Frontier world tour, they have decided to release their live performance in Estadio Nacional, Chile, which has been recorded last April in 2011. And finally here it is. Released almost a year later in March and having released a seemingly countless number of live records throughout their thirty-something career, a hardened Iron Maiden fan may be left wondering “does this really deserve my twenty euro"” In many ways; absolutely! Eighty plus minutes of pristine audio and quality musicianship (no surprises there) really can’t let you down, even if your CD rack is already packed with Maiden’s entire discography.
The band has gone out of their way to ensure the best possible production values in order to capture their sound, and Lord this doesn’t disappoint. The audio mix feels very even and nothing seems to be buried or lost. It’s almost as though the band has forgotten that “low budget” even exists. Even the packaging is in top form presentation. The performances are fantastic as always, and their set list seems to keep almost everyone happy. The concert starts with the highly unorthodox, yet ‘Somewhere in Time’ reminiscent, opener ‘Satellite 15’, and admittedly I was initially worried about how the synthesised bass, drums and guitars seemed strangely quiet compared to Dickinson’s vocals. Thankfully, there’s nothing to fear once ‘The Final Frontier’ kicks off and leaves those audio concerns to rest. It was well worth a year waiting to have proper performances of their recent material on your MP3 player, especially the galloping pace of ‘El Dorado’ and the epic yet tightly written ‘When the Wild Wind Blows’. The videos you see on You Tube from camcorders really don’t do these concerts justice. Of course, the band has a large handful of new and old material from their other albums, including ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ and ‘Fear of the Dark’, and then their post Blaze Bayley era songs such as the beautifully crafted ‘Blood Bothers’, delicately built ‘Dance of Death’ and the fan favourite album opener ‘The Wicker Man’.
The set list mostly feels satisfactory in keeping the new and old balanced and they are all equally well preformed, as you’d expect from a band that has shown a lot of untiring chemistry after all these years. However, the set list is also where I start to have minor criticisms. I can imagine some complaints that fans may have about the choice of songs. Out of the ten songs from their Final Frontier album, five are played (excluding the ‘Satellite 15’ opener). Maybe this is getting greedy but ‘The Alchemist’ and ‘Starblind’ are easily some of the strongest highlights of the album, yet they never seem to be performed on any performance during their tour. Ok, it’s not a huge deal, but I just felt that they could have done with a little less of the classics because I can imagine fans looking at the CD and asking “do I really need more live versions of ‘Hallowed by Thy Name’ or ‘The Number of the Beast’ in my collection"” Probably not and I understand it’s a matter of keeping the old timers happy, but they still could have surprised us more with some rarely preformed tunes such as let’s just say… ‘Futureal’ or ‘For the Greater Good of God’. Again, not a huge problem and the recent Final Frontier performances merit enough reason to buy this and but I just felt they could have attracted potential buyers with a surprise or two, especially considering this is a selected concert.
Minor set list complaints aside, it is still preformed really well. Steve Harris’ galloping bass lines never let up and keep the pace frantic and highly disciplined, Nicko’s drumming is just as relentless as ever and the guitars are more than memorable. It’s nice that Smith, Gers and Murray have taken liberties in adding some minor details to their guitar playing for verses and bridges. As said before, the production is outstanding and the band has gone all out in capturing the stadium shaking sound. But as for Dickinson: his operatic voice still makes him a great performer and his charisma shines through the speakers just as strong as always, but there are spots where you can tell that he is struggling to hit the high notes even more noticeably then in their recent studio albums. I don’t know if it’s due to vocal fatigue or if he’s simply starting to show his age, but fair enough, Iron Maiden has been around for over three decades with fifteen studio releases to speak of so they’re hardly spring lambs at this point. His voice still holds up pretty well for the most part so it’s easily forgivable since it doesn’t weight down the band’s consistently strong performance throughout the two discs, not by a long shot anyway.
So overall, En Vivo is a worthy purchase for any Iron Maiden fanatic. The set list is satisfying but could leave a bit to be desired and they could do without one or two of the classics, but probably only in a subjective sense. And Dickinson’s age does show in a few places but the performances are still amazing, production is more than top notch and it’s evident that the sextet aren’t ready to let up just yet, and they still have the fire and passion within them to give a performance beyond memorable. This musical heavy metal juggernaut is still well oiled and seems to have a lot of fire and steam left, so let’s just see if their energy holds up to squeeze another album or two out of them as Harris hopes in the future.