Music DVD Review: Maiden England ’88
Pros:Immersive capturing of a great concert. Informative bonus features.
Cons:There are better live Maiden albums out there already.
Step back in time to the peak of Maiden’s eighties period with this satisfying, justified re-release.
Iron Maiden have existed for over three decades now. In that time they went from local favorites to global phenomenon, spearheading the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as the 1980s ticked on and leaving their mark on an entire generation of musicians. Following the release of their seventh album, aptly titled Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, the band entered what would be a difficult period, as was the nineties for metal in general. The rejoining of charismatic frontman Dickinson and veteran guitarist Smith at the turn of the millennium sparked a second coming of creative vigour in the band, and indeed a renewed public interest. Their most recent studio release, The Final Frontier, topped the charts in over twenty eight countries worldwide, an astonish commercial achievement given metal’s lack of mainstream exposure and the dwindling sales of music in the digital age. Each one of band’s member may be nearing sixty but how gracefully they have aged.
Maiden England ‘88 is a re-release of the performance at the NEC in Birmingham during the Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour, eh, tour, that was originally put out on VHS many moons ago. It’s easy for bands with long histories and plentiful archives to lazily slap together a cash crop of past glories, and certain Maiden England ‘88 is a celebration of a very specific era of Maiden, but it is one which has been earned; the past decade has been a wonderful combination of consistent touring and boundary-pushing new material. If any group deserve a moment to look back, it is surely Iron Maiden, for they have looked forward tirelessly with clear focus and purpose for over ten straight years now.
Upon the pressing of ‘play’, the viewer enters a time machine and is transported back to the eighties, a system shock that is difficult to withstand without some degree of laughter; truly, ’80s fashion has aged terribly. Skin-tight leather is plentiful along with items of clothing made from denim that should never have been made from denim. Of course it has too that dingy, smoggy look that many of the captured performances from that era do, which is a polite way of saying the video quality is a far cry from modern standards. But there’s certain a lo-fi charm to it and it would silly to criticize an unavoidable technical hurdle; the audio sounds great and really that’s what counts.
Iron Maiden have always been a top flight live band so it should come as no surprise that in Maiden England ‘88, the group are on excellent form. Despite looking ridiculous in comparison to his modern day self – he’s a man definitely more suited to short hair – Dickinson as a frontman succeeds in doing his job in every conceivable area. This re-release stands amongst elements of the Maiden canon that simply didn’t exist the first time around, and along with its age, finds itself in a different position of judgement than it would have originally. McBrain, Smith, Murray, and of course Harris, sound very much the same as they did twenty years ago. Dickinson, on the other hand, his voice his weapon of choice, hasn’t been able to avoid rigors of time. This isn’t a negative; far from it. In fact, Dickinson’s voice has aged beautifully, deepening noticeably, taking on a more theatrical quality, something perfectly suited to the dramatic stage performances Maiden love to indulge in, and their lyrical storytelling prowess.
The second disc features a healthy helping of behind the scenes and interview footage for the aficionado, both new and old. ‘12 Wasted Years’, released in ‘87, covers the band’s history up until that point. ‘The History of Iron Maiden: Part 3’ has the benefit of hindsight and like the previous two parts in the series, is a frank and anecdote-filled documentary. They’re real treats for fans and a nice set of extras to round off the package.
Maiden England ‘88 is, above all else, a solid historical document. It is perhaps most useful for younger generation of Maiden fans who never had the opportunity to experience what was a critical period of the band’s career. Ultimately, it serves as a great complement to Iron Maiden in their current incarnation, who have remained as passionate and animated in their live performances so many years on.