Live At Donington

Iron Maiden

Raw Power Records, 1994

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Once upon a time, Live At Donington was considered to be one of the Holy Grails for any Iron Maiden fan. Almost like an "official bootleg," this very limited release was meant to be a special tribute to the fans, especially those who had been at the show on August 22, 1992. I saw this disc in its original format only once - and was far too cheap to pay the $50 the music store wanted.

Yet the fans clamored for this disc to see wider release - and in 1998, Iron Maiden gave the fans what they wanted, even though two live albums comprising songs from the same tour were released on A Real Live One and A Real Dead One. (True, these discs also worked in songs from the "farewell" tour featuring Bruce Dickinson. More on that in just a moment.)

Live At Donington captures Iron Maiden just before their fates - which had already started to slide a little bit - really went downhill. It's no Live After Death - nor was it meant to be. In sum, it's an okay show, just not quite as captivating as it could have - or should have - been.

If you've never seen the video release of this concert, you may wonder what Dickinson is prattling on about during "Heaven Can Wait". (Side note: I've not seen the video, but I read about what was going on in the enhanced CD portion of this disc. I've yet to view the video of "Heaven Can Wait" on the enhanced CD, but I'll bet it answers all questions.) During the bridge, many of the other bands who had been on the bill that day came on stage and started chanting the "whoa-oh-oh" portion. Had I not read about this, I'd still be scratching my head and wondering if Dickinson was going off on someone in the audience. Likewise, if you didn't see the show or read the enhanced bio, you'd never know that Adrian Smith - who had left the band after my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son in 1988 - came on stage and played guitar on "Running Free". (A sign of things to come, perhaps? Smith re-joined Maiden when Dickinson returned to the fold in 1999.)

Live At Donington commits one major sin - where the hell is Janick Gers's guitar work? Every time that Dave Murray solos, the rhythm guitar seems to cut out, and every time Gers has a solo, it's almost completely buried in the mix. Granted, I've never been pro-Gers with Maiden, but if the guy's in the band, turn his guitar up in the mix, for Chrissakes. It's unfair to Gers, and it's damned distracting. (I have the same complaint of my DVD of Raising Hell, the recording of Dickinson's final show with Iron Maiden.)

The disc commits one other "sin" - namely, it's not able to live up to Live After Death. Honestly, it's an unfair comparison to make. After all, this was a band seven years older with far more material to select their set from. Yet Iron Maiden had passed their glory days, and seemed to be coasting a bit on their past success. I never thought that albums such as No Prayer For The Dying or Fear Of The Dark were as good as Iron Maiden's early work - though I admit these await re-review in the Pierce Memorial Archives. And while Iron Maiden brings such songs as "The Clairvoyant," "Be Quick Or Be Dead" and "Heaven Can Wait" to life, other songs, such as "Can I Play With Madness" (a song I still say should never be played live - it was a studio creation), "The Evil That Men Do" and "Afraid To Shoot Strangers" all seem to suffer.

But this time around, it's not just the newer material that struggles. Sometimes, on classics like "Hallowed Be Thy Name," "Run To The Hills" and "Wrathchild," the whole band is on cruise control. Sure, they probably played these songs so many times that they could have done so in their sleep, but they do sound a tad lethargic. But don't blame it on a lack of interest from Dickinson; he was six months away from announcing that he would be leaving Iron Maiden, and even states in the enhanced portion of the CD that he wasn't even thinking about leaving at this stage.

Even so, there is still something about Live At Donington that pulls me back from time to time. Maybe it's that Iron Maiden does show me that there was life in the newer material that I couldn't see the first time I heard these albums. Maybe it's that I'm trying to capture a fraction of the magic that is Donington, and to understand how big a moment this was for Iron Maiden (who were headlining the festival for a second time). In truth, it's not a bad live album, but it does suggest that it could have been greater. Here's hoping the latest batch of CD reissues corrects the absolutely crappy mix of Gers's work.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Raw Power Records, and is used for informational purposes only.