REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Virtual Lights Strikes Over France (1998, bootleg CD)

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.

1/5 stars

    

41 comments

    1. I can’t wait to post my reviews of them. I think you and Heavy Metal Overload both feel roughly the same about them. I’m going to do the whole series of Maidens just like I did with Kiss.

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  1. So funny, you guys bashing on a Maiden album. Sure, for Maiden it’s a lesser effort, but compared to contemporaries, you gotta know they still kick ass and take names over any of the pretenders to the throne. Up the irons!

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    1. Well, I gotta be honest man. Something was clearly wrong with Blaze Bayley’s voice that night, because he seldom hits the right notes. It’s actually a painful listen. I remember listening to it the first time, and thinking, “I just wasted $60.” Then saying, “Maybe it’ll sound better in the car?” There’s no reason why it would, and it didn’t. I’ve listened to this once since then. It is truly awful and tiring to listen to him hitting sour notes again and again and again and even on his own material.

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  2. After listening to the YouTube upload of this I’ve come to the conclusion that it is an excellent buy. Why? See below

    1- although it sounds like an audience recording the sound quality is well above the average bootleg quality

    2- excellent and large track list.

    3- whatever was wrong with Blaze’s voice it reduced his ability to try and hit high notes. Therefore instead of him trying (and failing to hit the high notes in Bruce songs, and then sounding horrible) he instead is forced to sing the songs in a lower tone, which although it may not suit them, is more pleasing to listen to compared to other shows

    4- I’m a die hard Maiden with Blaze fanatic

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    1. Well hey Harrison, I appreciate that. Your notes are well considered. I know my friend Aaron at KeepsMeAlive did not like Blaze. You should read his series too, he reviewed all the Maiden albums along with me.

      Personally I can’t get past the vocals on this album and I almost never play it, which is too bad.

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      1. Live Blaze with Maiden is a very acquired taste. The bit that I don’t like is when he botched the lyrics.

        Hopelessly out of tune I’m used to hearing and can handle, but flubbed lyrics are very annoying

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      1. Well, I’m not to sure. Have you seen Paul’s latest release, The Beast Arises? (It comes highly unrecommended)

        At least Gillan enunciates everything correctly (except for when he screams instead)

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  3. Saw Maiden in ’98 on the Virtual XI tour and it wsa not great. Blaze and the band were doing their level-best to keep the well under-sold show going, but it was clear that things were not going as well as they hoped. Interesting times for Maiden back then.

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      1. Blaze was a good front man, but he was a good front man for a bunch of snotty little bastards like Wolfsbane. I saw Wolfsbane tear up gigs and Blaze would be on fire, but with Maiden, he just seemed a bit out of his depth. In some ways, it seemed easier for Bruce to take DiAnno’s place than it was for Blaze to take Bruce’s unfortunately. Expectation was probably just too high on Blaze.

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        1. I think this is one LeBrain needs to do himself, without my influence. I just don’t feel like it’s one I should do despite, and perhaps in spite of, my love for this disc

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        2. True, but i don’t think anyone is going to be reading this review much, let alone coming this far down the comments. (Not because it’s badly written but because it’s Maiden with Blaze live)

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        3. When is he posting it? Christmas as a present to you? I wouldn’t think he’d want to be up that late on Christmas Eve, because then Santa wouldn’t come down his chimney and leave him presents. The Little LeBrain That Santa Claus Forgot.

          A Christmas present for me would be to never have to listen to this piece of shit album again! I’m only kidding. I’ve only heard a song or two from it because you’re so insistent on its greatness. Before that I’d never even heard of it. But I agree with LeBrain’s original assessment. Blaze sounds like shit on this disc. The rest of the band is tight as ever though, so maybe that’s worth more than 1/5. Blaze mangling “The Trooper” right out of the gate on here is pretty embarrassing though.

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        4. Don’t know when it’s coming. The Trooper is not the best measure of Blaze because he always couldn’t ever do it. I still love the disc though despite Blaze’s vocal form; Hallowed be Thy name is killer
          Mangled lyrics do bother me a bit though.

          A far greater performance by Blaze though is right here-

          I don’t expect you to watch the whole thing, but please do listen to 2 Minutes to Midnight and The Number of the Beast to see that he could indeed do them well at times (If you scroll down a couple comments there are timestamps for all the songs

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        5. I listened for you, pal. You were right. He conducted himself well on those two tracks. Maybe Blaze isn’t so shitty after all. Harrison=#1.

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        6. Thank you, that’s more than I could have asked for. By the end of the Virtual XI tour Blaze had worked out how to do most of the Bruce songs convincingly (aside from Trooper and Heaven Can Wait). A shame that was also the end of his tenure. Blaze live with Maiden is the definition of a mixed bag, he really was inconsistent over the two tours. I’m just glad we got some good stuff from him

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      1. GGGGGGRRRRRRRR… but yes, for the die-hard Bruce fans, Blaze was a necessary evil to them what they were missing out on. But for me it was a period just as good as the other three

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