When I received this DVD, my first reaction was: “They’re still around?” You see, I was once a fan of Iron Maiden… Ten years ago! And even then, hair metal bands were past their prime. Still, me and especially the Beavis & Butthead types I hung out with dug Maiden a lot. Since then I moved on to other kinds of music, listening to bands that didn’t have angry skeletons on their album covers. Around the same time, singer Bruce Dickinson left the group, so it was even easier to dismiss them.

But what do we have here? A live concert DVD shot in 2001 in Brazil, with Dickinson back fronting the band. I was still reluctant during the introduction, tempted to mock these old, sagging, long-haired British has-beens still taking the stage to sing of wildebeests and angels but then something happened: they start to play… and they ROCK! They’re on this huge stage at the Rock in Rio festival with stuff blowing up everywhere and countless spots creating complex lighting arrangements, with 250 000 pumped up South American head-bangers going crazy. Halfway into the first song they had me with a wide grin on my face, tapping my feet and playing air guitar!

After all these years, Iron Maiden are still a tight, powerful band, keeping at it for two relentless hours. Watching them performing, I remembered that they were –and remain- more sophisticated and skilled than most of their devil-worshipping contemporaries. From Dickinson’s astonishing vocal range (he could have been an opera singer!) to the complex, nearly epic riffs of Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Dave Murray’s three-men “wall of guitars” to the machine-gun rhythm section formed by bass player Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain, Maiden’s sound is not as much heavy as it is full. They deserve the “progressive metal” descriptive they’re sometimes associated with.

Highlights include: everything from the classic “The Number of the Beast” album, especially the title track (Satanism at its catchiest!) and the anthem “Run to the Hills”; “Fear of the Dark”, which I find to be their best composition, maybe because it was released just when I got into Maiden; “The Clansman” and “Sign of the Cross”, stretched to nearly ten minutes by trippy guitar solos; “The Evil That Men Do”, particularly memorable because it has a 10 ft tall Eddie walking on stage! I’d never heard the six songs from the latest studio album, “Brave New World”, but I found them surprisingly good, on par with what Maiden recorded at the top of their form.

Complete Set List

“The Wicker Man” (Brave New World, 2000
“Ghost of the Navigator“(Brave New World, 2000
“Brave New World” (Brave New World, 2000
“Wrathchild” (Killers, 1981
“2 Minutes to Midnight” (Powerslave, 1984
“Blood Brothers” (Brave New World, 2000
“Sign of the Cross” (The X Factor, 1995
“The Mercenary” (Brave New World, 2000
“The Trooper” (Piece of Mind, 1983
“Dream of Mirrors” (Brave New World, 2000
“The Clansman” (Virtual XI, 1998
“The Evil That Men Do” (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1988),
“Fear of the Dark” (Fear of the Dark, 1992
“Iron Maiden” (Iron Maiden, 1980

“The Number of the Beast” (The Number of the Beast, 1982
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” (The Number of the Beast, 1982
“Sanctuary” (Iron Maiden, 1980
“Run to the Hills” (The Number of the Beast, 1982

DVD INFO: The DVD comes in a gorgeously creepy 2-disc package and includes such Bonus Features as a series of “candid interviews” with the band members (where we see them golfing, fencing, etc.), 56 exclusive photos from Iron Maiden’s South American tour with commentary from photographer Ross Halfin and a few hidden extras. But what matters most is the actual concert, which was shot and recorded with great care, as explains Steve Harris: ” As this was our first ever DVD release we wanted to make sure that it was absolutely right. The picture and audio quality are the highest possible as we really pushed the limits technically when the DVD was authored. I think the fans will be blown away. The few people who have seen and worked on it have all commented that we’ve really managed to capture the live energy of such a massive event which for me is fantastic.”

That about says it! “Rock in Rio” is a must for any Maiden fan, past or present.