If you were under the impression that people have stopped paying attention to Iron Maiden, then you haven’t been to Rio. Masterfully recorded from a recent show performed in front of tens of thousands of people on their “Brave New World” Tour and featuring several tracks from their 2000 release of the same name, Rock In Rio finds Iron Maiden handily burning through two hours of music spanning two decades. Mixed in are some requisite superhits (can a Maiden live album get any credibility if it omits “Run to the Hills?”), most notably, a truly thrashing, sped-up version of “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” With some tight production, three thick guitars and the aid of Bruce Dickinson’s voice (which can still reach the stratosphere), this album sounds better than many of Iron Maiden’s older recordings. Even some of Brave New World‘s studio cuts sound empty compared to their Rock in Rio performances, where the open gaps are tightly plugged by an absurdly enthusiastic sea of spectators singing along. Even during most of the guitar leads, the audience “whoa’s” in unison, sometimes even improvising its own parts—this is mob rule at its best. The crowd is so present on this record yet so complimentary to the band that they sound like a seventh musician—they’re Dickinson’s backup chorus of faithful followers. As a result, Rock in Rio is exactly what a live album should be—not merely a document of what went down but also a glaring indictment to its listener: “You should’ve been there, too.”
Both discs of the double-CD set contain CD-ROM videos, promotional teasers for the upcoming double DVD/VHS release of the show. The footage, while well-done for concert video standards, betrays the powerful images that the album leaves in the mind. Undoubtedly, the DVD will bring you back to reality: Iron Maiden is just six old metal guys with stringy long hair, not the mystifying demons you might have imagined. And while the audio version of the show hints that the band’s sound and musicianship have eluded the corrosion of time, the video is a quick reminder that 20 years has only bolstered their status as one of the least attractive bands of all time. Add to that Maiden’s unwillingness to accept that skintight pants only look good on Prince and you have a very unappealing spectacle. To its credit, the concert footage reveals that Iron Maiden can still play with the utmost passion—for proof, one need only catch a glimpse of bassist and band founder Steve Harris’s face, permanently forming the teeth-baring shape of a battle cry as he gallops around the stage. This passion comes through on the live recording and any slack left by the band is amply supported by the throng of fans who haven’t forgotten that Iron Maiden is one of the best metal bands of all time.