I feel a bit like a jackass reviewing this, because so many people I know caught this tour, or at least one of the recent tours, and I’ve never seen Maiden live. I only have these live albums to go by. But what I like about Iron Maiden is that they take the time to document almost every single tour since the Bruce reunion era began. (Only three tours did not receive a live album.) The Legacy of the Beast tour was in support of a video game, and featured a sort of “legacy” setlist, heavy on the old classics with a small smattering of more recent material. This prevents too much crossover with the prior live album, The Book of Souls – Live Chapter.
Without going track by track, I can tell you that Nights of the Dead was pieced together from three shows in Mexico City, much like Live After Death in Long Beach and Hammersmith. Even so, Bruce’s voice only tends to get stronger as they go further down the setlist. By “Hallowed” and “Run to the Hills”, it sounds like the man is just warming up!
The setlist is a delightful mix of hits, deeper cuts and the odd recent classic. “Where Eagles Dare” from Piece of Mind whips the throng into immediate hysteria. “Revelations” from the same LP has a certain contemplative gravity that it brings to any live album, and hearing it here is sheer nostalgic delight. Two Blaze-era songs return to the set in “Sign of the Cross” and “Clansman”, both lengthy epics. Enhanced by the three-guitar lineup and the Air Raid Siren, can we say these versions challenge the originals for supremacy? Though it wasn’t written for Bruce, “Sign of the Cross” has more dynamics with him at the microphone — he adds a few high notes for embellishment. Not to mention the depth that the third guitar adds to a song that was always a bit thin sounding.
Reunion era Maiden is cut back, leaving only “Wicker Man” and the always welcome “For the Greater Good of God”. Both deserving songs. Stuff like “Wicker Man” (and the earlier “Flight of Icarus”) really pump up the adrenaline levels by keeping it short, sharp and unshackled.
Then you have the stuff that you have to call “the hits”: songs like “Aces High”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”, “Trooper”, “Beast”, “The Evil that Men Do”, “Iron Maiden”, “Fear of the Dark” and “Run to the Hills”. These are the Maiden standards; a serving of essentials that everybody has connected with at some point in their life. Some of them float in and out of setlists, and some always remain.
A word should always be said about the packaging and artwork of any Iron Maiden album. The Mexican-themed Eddie can be found in a couple pieces of art inside and out. Manager Rod Smallwood wrote the included liner notes, explaining that the live album came to be when the world came to a halt due to Covid-19. Yay Covid? Joking aside, Smallwood’s notes are always informative to read while rocking along to the CD. There is even a mini 2021 tour poster (let’s hope!) included, with the Trooper version of Eddie surrounded by iconic imagery from prior Maiden artwork. Icarus, the mushroom cloud from “2 Minutes to Midnight”, a crashed Spitfire…have a look. Finally, a sticker sheet is an added bonus though most of us will be keeping the stickers intact, I reckon.
Perhaps it’s just giddy glee that there’s a new Maiden live album to cap off this year, but Nights of the Dead is so good that I wouldn’t change a thing.