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

Merry Christmas, Harrison!

 

IRON MAIDEN – Virtual Lights Strikes Over France (1998 bootleg CD)

I took some flak when I first reviewed this.  “So funny, you guys bashing on a Maiden album,” said a disbelieving Aaron.   “Compared to contemporaries, you gotta know they still kick ass and take names over any of the pretenders to the throne.”  If only it were that simple.  More recently, Blaze Bayley-devotee Harrison has questioned my 1/5 star score.  It’s time to revisit the album after seven years and see if it sounds any better.


Ever wonder why Blaze only lasted two albums with Iron Maiden?  Most people assume it’s because they were more popular with Bruce, which is true.  But there was more to the story than that.  The evidence is here on Virtual Lights Strikes Over France, a live bootleg from the 1998 tour.  A handful of tracks aside, Blaze’s voice was in rough shape.  He struggles to hit and hold notes, on his own material no less.  He’s not as bad as Vince Neil, mind you.  He sings all the words and gives it all he’s got.  He’s just continually flat or sharp on key notes.

“Futureal” starts things in a promising manner, powerful and solid.  The struggle begins on “Angel and the Gambler”, missing notes here and there.  He begins “Lightning Strikes Twice” prematurely.  He does OK through the verses, but the chorus is a lost cause.  This is the tipping point.

“Man on the Edge” from The X Factor should be a slam dunk.  The problem is when Blaze hits a bad note, he really commits to it.  When the first Bruce Dickinson song is up, “Heaven Can Wait”, it’s all over.  No matter how good Iron Maiden are, this version is as close to unlistenable as the storied metal band ever gets.  Bayley recovers for a while on “Clansman”, but “Two Worlds Collide” must be tougher to sing.  “Murders in the Rue Morgue” is a slaughter.  Shame, since it’s a rarely performed Paul Di’Anno tune.  “2 Minutes” is marginally better.

In general, Blaze fares better on his own songs, but that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from problems.  You have to be a patient fan to listen to the entire set in one sitting, and you’ll absolutely wince multiple times.

The second CD has three bonus tracks from a show two years prior, from the X-Factour.  On these, Blaze is tops!  The difference is striking.  Here, he’s got the power necessary to accompany Iron Maiden on stage.  You can at least buy this CD for definitive live versions of “Fortunes of War”, “Blood on the World’s Hands” and “The Aftermath”.  It’s clear Blaze’s voice had changed between the two tours.

Am I being harsh?  Admittedly, yes, but for two reasons.

  1. Iron Maiden and Steve Harris have higher standards than this.
  2. I paid $60 for this goddamn thing.

The main point though is 1.  Obviously this situation was not going to be sustainable and Harris made the necessary change.  If he hadn’t, Iron Maiden might have risked being known as one of those bands who are hit and miss in concert, like Kiss and Motley Crue today.

I am going to revise the score higher.  It is live, and it’s not all terrible.  But few songs are free from some seriously sour notes, and for that reason, Virtual Lights will remain the least played Maiden CD in my collection.

2.25/5 stars

35 comments

  1. Ahhh, thank you LeBrain, much appreciated. I’m not going to deconstruct every sentence here and write an essay on Blaze, that would probably waste everyone’s time. Instead I’m just going to direct you to Blaze’s best gig during his time with Maiden, and leave it at that.

    Oh and “The problem is when Blaze hits a bad note, he really commits to it.” really cracked me up. Merry Christmas LeBrain

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy sweet mother of God. It really is almost Christmas in your part of the globe! Here it’s still 12:14 AM on Christmas Eve morning.

      I think my favorite time in the season is Christmas Eve night, and then Christmas morning right before you get up to get your presents. Reminds me of when I was a kid and I’d sneak into the living room one step at a time to get my stocking without waking anybody up. The anticipation is really bubbling on Eve, I almost like it better than the actual holiday. After the night time family get together the holiday let down sets in, whereas Christmas Eve everything is reaching the maximum saturation. But Christmas is hard to top. Usually a great set of days.

      Oh yeah, LeBrain did this for you. You know that? Blaze on Christmas Eve? Come on! Who else loves you that much? Mike gave you an early gift this year.

      Merry Christmas LeBrain, the readerz, and of course the Harrison Machine (who equals number one).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was actually one in the afternoon of Christmas Eve when this was posted but our family celebrates personally on Christmas Eve and with our extended family on Christmas Day

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We would always open our presents at home in the morning, and then my mom’s side of the family and us would gather together Christmas night. I saw my Dad’s mother on Christmas Eve before she passed. She was really the only person on that side of the family we talked to regularly. So that made it easier.

          Also, I think the fact that Mike gave you a review for Christmas and not me proves that he likes you more. Heart=broken. Harrison>Holen in the eyes of LeBrain.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. We see only dad’s side of the family, but there’s a lot of them. My mom’s side, save one uncle, are all in Hungary. I think Harrison=Holen in the eyes of LeBrain. Harrison annoys LeBrain about Blaze, Hollywood Vampires and British Lion too much.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks man and Merry Christmas to you too.

        Like you, it was always Eve Night and Christmas Morning that were special in my family. Things have changed now, but family used to arrive in the afternoon and shortly after we’d start opening gifts. A nice dinner that night, and then the big gifts in the morning! Some pretty mega ones over the years. A Millenium Falcon for example!

        These days it’s a lot more anticlimax but I’m still looking forward to it. I actually enjoy the giving more these days. I try to make it fun by doing funky wrapping.

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        1. Another fun thing was my sister and I would have a contest to see who would get the stocking first in the morning. I always won. Every time. Probably not completely fair. I’m five years older than her, so my resolve was always stronger.

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    2. Oh shit, I didn’t see that it literally says “Merry Christmas, Harrison!” I guess that means me inference powers have reached maximum saturation. Like the anticipation on Christmas Eve night. Fuck yes! I am omnipotent!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Thank you Harrison and thanks for hanging in there in 2019! I would like Maiden to release a proper live album with Blaze. When Rod did a Q&A a number of years ago he said “no” but it would work as part of an Eddie’s Archive II.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I did! I believe I found it on one of our Toronto trips. I saw it there when it was brand new too, but I didn’t want to rebuy it then at full price. The second time it was used and in perfect shape.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I just listened to this. it’s better than I remember. The “NNNNNAAAAAAAMMMMMMEEEEEE!!” that Blaze does at the end of Hallowed is amazing, especially for him

    Liked by 1 person

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