IRON MAIDEN – Virtual Lights Strikes Over France (1998, bootleg CD)
This awkward title was a disc I was really looking forward to playing. I snagged it in early 2000 at a record show in London, Ontario. I remember wanting to look at the discs before I bought it, because cheap bootlegs on CD-R’s were becoming more common. I wanted to make sure this was an actual factory pressed CD, not a CD-R, and the seller pretended she didn’t know what a CD-R was!
I like the Blaze-era Maiden albums and I was eager to have a live document of those years of some kind. A quick glance at the back cover reveals this concert to be an excellent choice. Not only do they play 7 of the 8 songs from Virtual XI, but there are three bonus tracks from 1996’s X Factour as well. All in all, an excellent cross section of Blaze material, with a smattering of Bruce and Paul.
Upon first listen, however, I was horrified! Blaze is shockingly tuneless! The rumours of his voice being shot during the Virtual XI tour seem to be confirmed. Judging by his recent solo output, his voice is much stronger today. But in 1998, something was clearly very wrong. He misses notes more often than he hits them on this one. Neither Blaze nor Steve Harris have really elaborated on the why’s.
Gratefully, the 1996 recordings are much stronger. Blaze’s voice here was album-quality strong. These three tracks are truthfully the only thing on this disc that I can stand listening to. The rest is just tunelessly bad.