Vintage riffs: "Maiden England '88" on DVD


Attention Iron Maiden fans: today, the seminal NWOBHM band releases a DVD version of Maiden England '88, a concert film shot on the seminal tour's stop in Birmingham, England (with never-before-seen encore footage to boot).

The two-disc set, which is full of stuff you've probably never seen at all unless you take really good care of your VHS tapes and still have a working VCR, also includes Twelve Wasted Years, a 1987 doc about Maiden's humble beginnings and rise to metal god status; The History of Iron Maiden Pt. 3, a 40-minute doc focusing on the band in the late 1980s; and promo videos of hits from that period, including "Can I Play With Madness" and "The Evil That Men Do."

The 110-minute live show, however, is the superstar here; it's been digitally remastered with a glorious new sound mix, keeping true to director (also the band's bassist) Steve Harris' goal of creating a you-are-there experience for fans — particularly useful if, in 1988, you were a small-town American tween who didn't get to see the tour in person. Ahem.

At any rate, the set list contains all the jams you want to hear; high points include a particularly energetic "Die With Your Boots On" and sing-alongs featuring excited audience members (jean jackets, feathered hair) on the oh-oh-oh part on "Heaven Can Wait." The set looks like an ice planet (albeit an ice planet with occasional pyro explosions), and band members all seem to be enjoying themselves — Nicko McBrain has clearly mastered the art of drumming while mugging for the camera — despite wearing pants crafted out of the tightest Spandex known to humankind.

Singer Bruce Dickinson, whose trademark 37-octave (-ish) voice and limber stage antics are in fine form here, offers cheeky between-song banter that includes clowning with a hand puppet tossed onstage, humblebragging about Maiden's prodigious success, and dubbing the controversial-to-some song "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son," "a very difficult song."

Dickinson also imitates fans' displeasure with the 1988 album of the same name (which came out the same year as the concert, so it would have been a piping-hot bugaboo for him at the time) — "You can't have keyboards in Iron Maiden!" — and advises any haterz to "Fuck off and listen to some other shit!" For good measure, band mascot Eddie makes his first appearance during "Seventh Son," gazing into a crystal ball with enormous glowing eyes as smoke machines do their thing and, yeah, keyboards happen. So many keyboards. Up the keyboards!

And just in case any of those haterz can't be lured back around by Andrew Lloyd Webber-level theatrical showmanship, the band goes right into "The Number of the Beast," pretty much the biggest crowd-pleaser in the set, enhanced by the sight of guitarist Dave Murray riding around on Dickinson's shoulders while a.) still playing and b.) Dickinson continuing to operatically belt it out. Laws of physics, songcraft, and gravity are all defied ... again, while wearing seemingly circulation-crushing garments.

A different configuration of Eddie, this time with moving parts, returns for "Iron Maiden," the finale that leads into a trio of encores: "Run To the Hills," a hit so massive you can't quite believe it was left off the original VHS version; and first-album tracks "Running Free" and "Sanctuary." The whole shebang concludes with an avuncular Dickinson — clearly not as spooky IRL as the band's signature album art might suggest — wishing the screaming crowds "Have a good Christmas, yeah?" YEAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

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