Iron Maiden – Live At Donnington

I will only say this once, off the top. I promise I won’t mention it again throughout the rest of the following diatribe. Ready? Dickinson’s vocals here are WAY better than on A Real Dead One. I mean, there’s no comparison. The dude actually showed up to work for this one. The difference is obvious.

OK, there, I said it. Onward.

Be Quick Or Be Dead immediately cleanses my head of the travesty that was A Real Dead One. Maybe he’s in the mix properly, but he definitely had a better opening on the mic. The Number Of The Beast is also just a great version. When the band kicks in, it’s off to the fuckin’ races, man. Wrathchild was a cool one to hear. It’s more mid-tempo for them, but still rocks out with simultaneous abandon and control, and very bluesy to boot! Metal-blues. Niiice. So of course it devolves into their AC/DC-wannabe track From Here To Eternity. Not so obviously a rip-off as Weekend Warrior was, but this one cuts it pretty close! Can I Play With Madness is a decent version. Is my memory of the album track off here, expecting synthesizers? Somehow I was… anyway, it’s better without them. Oh wait, there they are. So quiet in the mix. Should have just left them out.

Wasting Love lets all the air out of the balloon in one fell swoop with that long intro, and the mid-tempo (at best) other bits. Nah, not really a fan of that one. But then we get the almighty Tailgunner. I do love this song, and this is definitely a credible version. And of course it leads into The Evil That Men Do, another rollicking run-through. Excellent. Though I could have done without the three minute blabbering about how they were recording all this. C’mon, cut that shit out of here. What a dead spot on the record! Oh, and there’s his “war is stupid!” bit again. Sigh. They should have snipped that bit from the CDs, left it for the DVDs. Fortunately, what saves it is a perfectly chosen ending to what could be considered a trilogy of songs. Afraid To Shoot Strangers ressurects the momentum they’d just lost.

Fear Of The Dark… why does he always introduce it in that Halloween-y voice? Anyway, a classic that had to be here, and the band nails it with aplomb. I think I liked it better as a show-closer (wasn’t that A Real Live One?). I mean, mid-set it sort just becomes another great Maiden song, without the soccer-chant-able singalong bits. So help me, the intro to Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter, here, made me think they were going to break into a bad cover of Billy Idol’s version of Mony Mony. But no! Let’s get the crowd to sing along with some nonsensical “hey yeah yeahs!” This whole track is built on the chorus. The rest is just like ketchup for the fries, just him talk-singing. Anyway, I’ve probably just commited heresy and you’re free to stop reading. I’m typing as I’m listening, and it is what it is, as I see it. Now, I love the next song, and The Clairvoyant does not disappoint. Woo! Although, those arpeggio guitar bits flirted with being out of tune. But shhhh! Don’t tell anyone! Just go back to rocking, nothing to see here! Even where it switches tempos abruptly isn’t THAT jarring, this time. Great track. Next up, Heaven Can Wait launches and never comes back down. LOTS of crowd participation here, the song is just built for it. They could have milked this one a lot longer than they did. And, to end the first of the CDs here, Run To The Hills. Of course. Cool version. And they signed off the main chunk of the show there, too. That one CD is enough to blast holes in most fortified walls. But wait, you mean there’s MORE?

The second CD kicks off with 2 Minutes To Midnight, which gets things right back to where they had been. I’m not the craziest about this song, but I understand its appeal in the discography. Next up, Iron Maiden keeps up the pace, until they break it down around the 2:30 mark. Guess, after all that, the band needed a bit of a well-earned break. Not that they lingered, it’s off to the races again right quick. And then they sign off again. That’s the end of the concert. Right? Nope. The crowd chants along for a good three minutes of wasted space on the disc, though. Shame, that.

Hallowed Be Thy Name starts things up again. At this point, it seems obvious that the band doesn’t want to go home. Dickinson did promise that they were going to play long, earlier in the set. And man, what a full track! What a work-out! That late in the night, it’s phenomenal, a testimony to their ability and energy. But then! No time is wasted getting straight to The Trooper, which does noting to give them a break. Lesser mortals would be falling over, by now. Not these guys. They’re banging out bpms and blistering guitar solos like it’s the first song of the night. Damn. Up next is Sanctuary, which blast off until a minute or so in, same as on A Real Dead One, they just slow to a stop, and where he spends a minute lying to the crowd about how he was nervous before the gig, then introduces the band, and then… boom! The crash back into the song as if they’d never stopped playing. They shouldn’t have. I don’t think they know when to intoduce themselves, it always comes at an awkward point. Tell them to call me, I’ll tell them. And for the last song of the night, Running Free brings back the bluesy rock, and includes the breakdown where he says goodbye, talks about the other bands who’d played that day, then gets a long segment of crowd shout-alongs before crashing to close. I dunno. Not the song I would choose to end a set like this, but once again they never asked me. They even left in the thanks, and Nicko’s babbling, and the fireworks at the end. I guess they wanted it to be complete.

Still, in all, despite the edits I’d have made? This was the best live Maiden I’ve heard so far, hands-down. They just gave everything they had, it was obvious.

If it came down to this one versus A Real Dead One, hell, even A Real Live One, competing for my hard-earned in a record shop, this one would come home with me, hands down, even with the pointless stopping and starting and the way-too-long crowd chanting between sets. A Real Live One would be a second choice, and no matter how they’d priced it, I’d tell them they’d over-priced A Real Dead One.

Right, and now Mike gets it right:

Put yer words here:

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