Part 18 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!
“Satan’s work is done Donington!” – Bruce Dickinson
IRON MAIDEN – Live At Donington August 22nd 1992 (1993 CD, 1998 remastered edition)
I imagine if Bruce remained in the band, Maiden probably wouldn’t have released three live albums in one year. But they needed time to regroup and figure out what the hell to do next. In the meantime, as if to say, “We’ll be back!” Maiden released Live At Donington August 22nd 1992.
A much better recording than its two predecessors (A Real Live One and A Real Dead One), it’s a very special set. It’ll never be Live After Death (that’s impossible) but this is one of the finer Maiden live albums to come down the pipe. I mean, just look at the first three songs! A smoking “Be Quick Or Be Dead”. An absolutely devastating “Beast” (I like that they threw it in early). A surprising “Wrathchild”, one of the best Maiden songs of all time.
Then I get a little disinterested — “From Here To Eternity” is not a personal fave, and “Can I Play With Madness” is flat sounding again, just like on A Real Live One.
“Wasting Love” is better. The dual guitar harmony is a little off, but it’s live, what you hear is the way it was. Bruce pushing his voice to the breaking point. The mix is nice here. You can hear Nicko’s drums beautifully and both guitars clear as a bell.
A fiery “Tailgunner” takes us out of ballad territory and back into traditional Maiden: pumping guitars and lyrics about good ol’ WWII. I like when Bruce sings, “No more bomber just one big bomb, hey hey, whooo! Pussshhhttt!” as if to imitate the sound of a bomb going off!
Then, “The Evil That Men Do” lives on and on. Bruce urges Donington to scream for him; they do and he responds with a solid “Fuck yeah!”
Incidentally, does anyone know why Bruce always seems to sing the words to this song wrong, live? This album and A Real Live One, he sings:
“And I will pray for her,
Someday I may return,
I will bleed for her,
If I could only make her learn.”
The actual lyric on the album is:
“And I will pray for you,
Someday I may return,
Don’t you cry for me,
Beyond is where I learn.”
Bruce then introduces the modern war ballad, “Afraid To Shoot Strangers”. I think this is one of Maiden’s greater songs, at least once it gets going into that awesome guitar melody…and then another one after that!
The first CD of Donington closed with “Fear Of The Dark”. Interesting — playing this one halfway through the show, and not the end! How things would change, as this song became more and more of a classic. The Donington version is great, I love Janick’s pinch harmonics. The remastered CD loaded four more songs onto disc one from here, freeing that space off disc two for video content. I’m only mentioning this because depending on which version you have, your disc may end on a different song. But I think “Fear Of The Dark” may as well close the disc, as it’s a perfect place to pause!
“Bring Your Daughter” was up next. I can always pass on this song, although the redeeming factor are the wild and crazy guitars! I could do without the singalong intro, but the fans at Donington are sure into it!
The brilliant “Clairvoyant” pumps the crowd up once again. Once again, Janick crazies-up the guitar work making the whole thing more manic.
“Heaven Can Wait” of course was the big singalong song, I just wish they’d play something else from Somewhere In Time instead of this number. Although I do like it when Bruce allows Nicko to have a word. “Oiiiyyyeeeee!” This is followed by “Run To The Hills”, which indicates we’re getting closer to the end. Personally I’m tiring of this song, and the guitars sound too thin.
“2 Minutes To Midnight” serves as a reminder of the great tunes that Bruce and Adrian used to write together. Great riff (even if poached from “Wildfire” by Budgie), great song. Funny: As a kid, I loved “Hills” and didn’t really like “2 Minutes”. Now, I really love “2 Minutes”, but I’ve heard “Hills” just too many times.
Then: four classics in a row. “Hallowed”, “Trooper”, “Sanctuary”, and “Running Free”. “Hallowed” is still one of the very greatest Maiden tunes of all time, and in many ways I think it’s better live. In particular, the Live After Death version is great. But Bruce sings his teeth into this one too, and it’s just that much better for it. Once again, I can hear some tasty pinch harmonics in the opening. Is that you Janick? Guess I’ll have to wait until this show comes out on blu-ray in 2013….
“The Trooper” is of course pummeling as ever, and “Sanctuary” a welcome rarity from the earlier punkier days. I like when Bruce introduces Nicko as “old Flatnose himself”.
“Running Free” though was very special indeed, and a harbinger of things to come.
Adrian came out and joined the band for this one, a special appearance at a special gig. For years I had no idea: It’s not like you can really understand what Bruce is saying when Adrian comes out, perhaps overcome with emotion! This really was a preview of the most beloved, long-standing Maiden lineup of all time: Bruce, Steve, Nicko, Davey, Janick, and Adrian. It would be seven years before they played together again, but here’s the first.
The cover art and packaging was decidedly bootleg: A plain white cover with a Maiden logo stencil and the title in sloppy typewriter font. No booklet at all. Thankfully, this was rectified with Mark Wilkinson’s poster art, used for the remastered cover art. The remaster did indeed feature a full booklet packed with photos, and some live video stuff that may or may not work on your current machine.
And thus ends Live At Doningon, and thus ends the last album with this lineup. It would be uncharted waters forward, as Maiden began the audition process for a new lead singer for the first time in a decade.
But there would be one more special show. One more release to talk about: Not an album, but a video. Next time, we’ll talk about Bruce’s final show, called Raising Hell, featuring the decapitation of the band’s lead singer!