|Iron Maiden: Rock in Rio|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 20 August 2002|
When you look at these many thousands of people huddled together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to watch British metal icons Iron Maiden perform in this DVD concert, you get the uneasy feeling that new music must have stopped crossing this South American country’s borders right around about 1980. Although their fans’ tastes in music haven’t evolved a whole lot over the last few decades or so, the members of the Maiden certainly show signs of oncoming old age. Only singer Bruce Dickinson – seen here bouncing enthusiastically around the stage in shorts – appears to have slowed down the aging process somewhat. But drummer Nicko McBrain looks eerily similar to the way Howard Hughes must have appeared during his last days of life, albeit one doubts McBrain could still play the drums if he also had old Howie’s famously extra long fingernails.
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about mixing gray hair with rock ‘n’ roll. If you don’t believe me; just ask Mick ‘n’ Keith of the Stones, or Neil Young, for that matter. These folks are just a few of the elderly ones who can still rock authentically in the free world. But unlike Iron Maiden, these still-relevant artists have let their music evolve naturally, rather than stunting its growth like the curves in an ancient statue or something. Granted, The Stones aren’t exactly competing with Radiohead for the cutting-edge crown nowadays, but Neil Young’s growth spurts happen so quickly that, at times, they often appear to be time-lapse photography experiments. But Iron Maiden is clearly suffering from a bad case of arrested development. Even though this live set finds plenty of room for newer tracks – “Ghost Of The Navigator,” “The Wicker Man” and “Blood
Brothers,” all from the 2000 Brave New World release – it’s nearly impossible to distinguish these newbies from older standards like “The Number Of The Beast.” It’s all the same old sound, just with new titles.
The L.A. punk group Fear once sang that New York is all right if you like saxophones. Similarly, Iron Maiden is okay if you can stomach the overly dramatic singing of their overly dramatic songs, which are put to lumbering hard rock beats. But after a while, this repeated formula begins to sound like noise, as one melodramatic gut-buster follows another. These songs all mix in relentless guitar solos, which do nothing to enhance their effectiveness. While Dickinson is in fine voice here, he does very little to give these widely varying – at least in subject matter -- songs any kind of contextual value. Except for occasional screams of, “I can’t f**kin’ hear you,” he doesn’t say a whole heck of a lot to these voluminous fans.
“Rock In Rio” is at least a beautifully shot video. Its camera work skillfully captures the grandeur of this extremely large crowd, especially through the use of bird’s eye overhead perspectives. When closeups are in order, the band is viewed from almost every conceivable angle. Had this live DVD showcased a band still in its prime, watching it would add up to a memorable viewing experience. It’s a whole lot of skillful camera work, with nothing particularly eye-catching to focus on. Still, wouldn’t you have at least expected these rock veterans to pull out all the visual stops for such a large and captive audience? Yet, except for the dopey looking giant that appears while “The Evil That Men Do” is being performed, there’s very little in the way of visual aids for viewers to deposit in memory banks. It doesn’t make sense to sound so theatrical, without also looking equally theatrical. But Iron Maiden chose to let the music try and speak for itself, so everything just came out sounding -- and looking -- beautifully dumb.
This whole package is broken down into two discs. One is the concert itself, and the second is comprised of special features. One of these special feature segments details what each band member likes to do on his day off, and is called “Candid Interviews.” Bruce Dickinson is seen taking a fencing lesson, which is a skill that must come in handy when on stage. Who knows when you might need to fend off another band member, or even an overly enthusiastic fan or two? Nicko McBrain is followed as he temporarily exchanges his drumsticks for golf clubs on the greens. Bass player Steve Harris would rather go and watch a soccer match, instead of doing something physical. But because this sport attracts so many wild fans, even just watching it can be considered a kind of an extreme sport at times.
The extra feature “A Day In The Life” follows the band from their plane to the stage in Rio de Janeiro, and then off the stage after it’s all over. The group appears to be comprised of generally likable people, if this video picture is a realistic one. This feature is not of much educational value, however, unless the fact that Dickinson always double-knots his tennis shoes before mounting the stage is important information to you. And if that doesn’t just knock your socks off, so to speak, perhaps you’ll be impressed with how the cameraman was able to convince the food service workers at the group’s hotel to pretend to be Maiden fans, devil horn signs and all. You’re still not impressed? I don’t blame you.
The least effective special feature here is one put together by Ross Halfin, the band’s official photographer, called “Ross Halfin Photo Diary.” It’s presented like one of those “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” slide presentations dreaded by both kids and adults. It’s shown picture by boring picture, as Halfin narrates each and every one with monotone lines like, “Here we are in Mexico,” and, “Bruce is wearing a shirt his wife bought him that makes him look really cool.” Such material should have been saved for one of the band’s social nights, after they’d returned home from the tour, and not preserved for this DVD.
Strangely enough, these special features -- especially “Candid Interviews” -- are far more memorable than the concert itself. When it’s shown playing, Iron Maiden is obviously excited to be in front of so many thousands of people. But being excited and actually having something interesting or exciting to say are two very different things. Iron Maiden mostly shoots blanks, artistically speaking. It’s a spectacle to see all those lights causing such a glow on that giant stage, and it’s really something else to hear all the chanting fans who are supremely enthralled by this concert. But viewers at home just won’t feel this same eventful magic, because this whole performance is hollow at its core.