Monsters Of Rock 1988 25th Anniversary Edition (Zodiac 033/034)
Iron Maiden’s seventh studio record was the pinnacle of their worldwide success and has gone on to mythical status, and with good reason. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son was a true band project and one that would find the English metal superstars taking their finely honed metal influences and fusing them with their early musical roots of Progressive music, the result was perhaps the groups most cohesive release to date.
So massive was the record that after many invitations Iron Maiden would finally accept and, deservedly so, headline the prestigious Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donnington. For this incredible new release the folks at Zodiac have given us something to mark the 25th Anniversary of this milestone in the band’s career, one that should have been a day of triumph but do to unforeseen accident would be one of tragedy. But for now, let’s step back some twenty five years ago, Somewhere back in time…
Warm Up Gig – Queens Mary College, London, UK – August 17, 1988
Secret gig performing as “Charlotte & The Harlots”
Disc 1 (41:39) Moonchild, The Evil That Men Do, The Prisoner, Wrathchild, Infinite Dreams, The Trooper, Can I Play With Madness, Heaven Can Wait
Disc 2 (67:29) MC, Wasted Years, The Clairvoyant, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, The Number of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Iron Maiden, Run To The Hills, 22 Acacia Avenue, 2 Minutes To Midnight, Running Free, Sanctuary
The tour dubbed The Seventh Tour Of A Seventh Tour consisted of 98 dates and would be made up of three legs beginning with an American Tour, followed by a European trek and finally the UK leg would close the tour in grand style with the last date being held at the beloved London Hammersmith Odeon. There were a couple exceptions to the tour, after the American leg the band would play two dates, the second was the prestigious Castle Donnington, the first was a “warm up” show at London’s Queen Mary’s College. The set list would be expanded from the American jaunt and for the warm up gig the band would use the moniker Charlotte and the Harlots, the name would fool no one and the gig was quickly sold out.
There is one audience source for the gig, it has not seen a bootleg release save the three songs found as bonus tracks on Godfather’s London Blaze (Godfatherecords G.R.738/739). The recording is very good near excellent with a superb instrument and vocal mix with little crowd interference, it has a nice in your face feel to it and sounds good at loud volumes. The band is obviously excited to play back in their home country and the gig is special for singer Bruce Dickinson as he is an alumni of the prestigious college. The recording picks up with the “Seven Deadly Sins” intro played over the PA system just prior to the band hitting the stage. Once they do take the stage it sounds almost as if they will over power the recording equipment (and listener) but thankfully it just adds to the concert experience. The opening double salvo of “Moonchild” and “Evil That Men Do” is quite well received, after all the Seventh Son record debuted at number 1 in the UK charts.
“The Prisoner” keeps things going but for me it is the blistering take on the classic “Wrathchild” that really heats things up. Musical perfection it is a dynamic and powerful rendition that harkens back to the Maiden Japan version. Bruce does his introductory speech talking about their gear being stuck in customs for a week, the last gig on the American tour was on August 10th so their nerves must have been frayed by this point. A powerful “Infinite Dreams” follows, having not seen the tour I was excited when the band recently revived the theme from their latest tour and was excited at the possibilities of finally hearing it live, sadly the song did not make the set list. It has it all, powerful vocal performance, a ton of musical twists and turns with a huge progressive feel but in a compact five and half minutes.
The band waste little time, there is more pummeling of the audience to be done and they quickly start “The Trooper”, there is a disturbance close to the taper at the beginning, someone is trying to push through and can be heard saying “c’mon…let go around them”. It is minor and adds the live feeling, the audience do participate with some “Ooooohhhhs” as expected. Bruce complains about the monitor system but tells them that the Donnington system is incredible, he also intros “Can I Play With Madness”, to a nice round of applause. The song would be the highest charting single from the record and be somewhat light and airy for a Maiden single, the chorus is an instant crowd favorite. A fast tempo “Heaven Can Wait” brings the first disc to a close. The band play it as if their lives depend on it, Bruce sounds as if he is almost struggling to keep up. Fast paced music makes for frantic playing and both Adrian Smith and Dave Murray rise to the occasion and deliver blistering solos, all the while Steve Harris plucks his bass strings to perfection.
The second disc begins with a Bruce speech about the American tour and chants of “Maiden…Maiden” and goes into a rap about the issues with death and blaming music leading into “Wasted Years”, the song seems to liven up the audience and they clap along with the intro to great effect and the song is well received. The brilliant “Clairvoyant” follows, the momentum is certainly building. Dave’s solo is spot on, his melodic leads flow from his fingertips and his interplay with Adrian is what makes this song so good. Bruce acknowledges the attendance of a few record company executives that gains a round of boo’s from the audience as well as one punter exclaiming “F*** the bastard”, its all in good fun though and leads into the epic title track “Seven Son Of A Seventh Son”. The keyboards come through clean in the mix, important as they really add to the ambiance of the song. Of course the keyboards are played by one Michael Kenny and would be positioned off stage, keeping with the no keyboards on a metal stage policy. The audience is restless during the quiet interlude and are loud but it does not ruin the segment, Bruce’s spoken word is quite strong and well punctuated. The loud ones quiet down for the prelude before the violent section, Dave and Adrian are vicious in their playing and one can almost picture the battle between good and evil, light and darkness, and the understood versus the misunderstood.
Things heat up as the opening of “The Number Of The Beast” goes over the PA, it is all down hill from here as the band wring out the audiences last energy with a superb “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (featuring a great laugh from Bruce after the “I’m Waiting in my cold cell” line) and finally the set ending “Iron Maiden”. For the encores Bruce talks about the power of positive thought and asks about Donnington and gets a huge response. Some punter is asking about Eddie and Bruce tells him he is waiting in the wings. The band aim to please for the encores beginning with “Run To The Hills”, their enthusiasm is unmatched up to this point, they also do a fine job of backing vocals. The number 2 is prevalent for the next two songs, the band dust off “22 Acacia Avenue” for part of the tour, not heard in something like four years. “2 Minutes to Midnight” is the other, played hot on its heels is certainly a crowd favorite although both songs would be better off in the main set, in my humble opinion. “Running Free” is a major crowd favorite, the crowd knows what is coming and proceed to get on with it, clapping and singing the chorus. During the middle section Bruce begins the audience participation by acknowledging his history at the school, the crowd respond and represent well when they get the chance to scream “I’m Running Free..YEAH”. “Sanctuary” is the perennial closer it seems, one does not have to wonder why as it really delivers everytime.
Donnington “Monsters Of Rock Festival” Castle Donnington, UK – August 20, 1988
Disc 1 (43:38) Moonchild, The Evil That Men Do, The Prisoner, Wrathchild, Infinite Dreams, The Trooper, Can I Play With Madness, Heaven Can Wait
Disc 2 (72:02) MC, Wasted Years, The Clairvoyant, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, The Number of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Iron Maiden, Member Introductions, Run To The Hills, 22 Acacia Avenue, 2 Minutes To Midnight, Running Free, Sanctuary
DVD (122 min) Moonchild, The Evil That Men Do, The Prisoner, Wrathchild, Infinite Dreams, The Trooper, Can I Play With Madness, Heaven Can Wait, MC, Wasted Years, The Clairvoyant, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, The Number of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Iron Maiden, Member Introductions, Run To The Hills, 22 Acacia Avenue, 2 Minutes To Midnight, Running Free, Sanctuary
This gig is somewhat like the culmination of over 10 years of work and vision of Steve Harris. He took his band from London’s East End to the stages of the world and on this evening in August, the bands biggest single concert in the UK, playing to not only the largest crowd they had played to but the largest audience ever in the history of the Donnington Festival. Maiden headlined the event, one boasting a bill of some of the biggest names in rock like Megadeth, Guns ‘n Roses, KISS and David Lee Roth, the day was plagued by sporadic rainfall and sadly during Guns ‘n Roses set two fans (RIP Alan Dick & Landon Siggers) lost their footing and were trampled by the crowd. The two fans received emergency medical attention to no avail, Maiden’s manager did not tell the band of the tragedy till after the gig. Such was the fallout that the festival was canceled the following year and when the Donnington Fest resumed in subsequent years they would cap the attendance at just over 70,000. The concert was a major event and was well publicized by various music magazines, most notable Kerrang! who seemed to have the band on almost every cover. Part of the band’s performance was broadcast on the BBC radio and has been officially released as part of the Eddies Archive box set and the live versions of “The Clairvoyant”, “The Prisoner”, and “Heaven Can Wait” were released as a single, the broadcast has been available on silver bootleg as Home Sweet Home (Meltdown ML 91604).
The source used for this release is a very good audience recording, made by the same taper as the QueensMaryCollege gig. The sound quality is very good, it does suffer from a swirling effect that is customary in outside recordings. It is well balanced and there is a little crowd interference directly by the taper but not too distracting and a small amount of hiss is present most noticeable during the quiet parts, the vocals and all instruments are well represented in the mix and after one gets used to the slight sound fluctuations it is easily enjoyed. Iron Maiden are known as consummate professionals onstage, this gig they rise to the occasion and delivery an excellent performance. The recording starts with Bruce saying something to the effect of the many major acts that have graced the stage, this is immediately followed by the “Seven Deadly Sins” intro and the band take the stage with “Moonchild”. It is only the first song and Bruce is putting in a superb vocal performance, he punctuates the lyrics to perfection.
Bruce greets the crowd and the band go into “The Evil That Men Do”, the sound of the bass and drums make for a rollicking version that hits you in the gut. The song is like a cross between “Run To The Hills” and “The Trooper”, Bruce demands the audience sing the “On and On” part of the chorus and tells the audience “Lord have mercy on your soul Donnington”, a statement that would take a particularly ominous tone considering the events earlier in the day. The Patrick McGoohan intro for “The Prisoner” is met with quiet indifference, the crowd does succumb to the song and can be heard helping with the chorus. A brutal “Wrathchild” follows, just like the version from a few days earlier at Queens Mary, really grabs you by the balls. Bruce gives a cryptic message to the large crowd. He asks them to move back as he can see the crammed audience down front. He then tells the crowd they will be back for a tour before Christmas, most cheers but someone close to the taper say it’s “obvious”. He enlists the audience to clap along as they begin “Infinite Dreams”, they do as their told as the music surrounds them. The slight swirling of the recording gives almost a dreamlike quality to the song, a superb rendition as Bruce spews the “Even though it’s reached new heights” section and Nicko’s tight drumming played in marshal fashion is spot on.
“The Trooper” elicits an effect that sounds as if one is being chased by an angry horde; such is the rhythm sections powerful sound. When doing my review for this I actually turned on the DVD and turned on the mute, so interesting to see the band perform such a high energy show. “Heaven Can Wait” is brilliant, again the tempo is very fast but just Bruce’s vocal rendition is so good. Certainly one of his greatest strengths is his ability to project to large audiences, they even bring out the road crew to help with the middle chant section. Bruce talks of the charting of “The Evil That Men Do” single as a prelude to “Wasted Years”, strange I know. The Adrian Smith penned song is a Maiden classic, if a bit commercial sounding (as is “Can I Play With Madness”) the live versions come to life and looking back 25 years Maiden has wasted very little. Adrian rips a perfect solo, perfect for a guy with a serious mullet hair cut and whose songwriting ability cannot be denied.
So powerful was the band’s performance that they released a single from the event, “The Clairvoyant” featured some of the most ethereal themes D Riggs ever produced. The live version gives the fan an idea of the musical potency of the group in concert and would peak at number 6 in the UK charts. The song is an intricate part of the Seventh Son story, but also fits in perfectly in any Maiden set list, the song garners a huge ovation. Bruce takes a minute to thank all those who have helped and supported the band since their inception; he also talks of the musical diversity of the album before introducing the title track, “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son”. The keyboards are pretty much buried in the audience recording; Dave Murray’s melodic leads are crystal clear and sustain the incurrent of melody that works through the piece. The Sabbath riffing prior to the spoken word section is really heavy and in direct contrast to the ambience of the latter, one should refer to the video as the dry ice covered stage bathed in blue light is simply stunning and Bruce’s silhouette is quite striking.
“The Number Of The Beast” rises from its ashes, Bruce’s wailing scream builds the tension and he has officially raised the bar to the next level, one that the band can easily attain. Dave starts off by playing a soaring solo and then Adrian lets rip a flurry of notes that wash away Dave’s, who by this point is making the rounds on Bruce’s shoulders. The stage lights dim as the opening strains of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” rise and Bruce is atop the amplifiers telling his sorrow filled story. This is Maiden at their best, the vocals are done and the band proceed to just lay it down, extremely tight the guitarists take their turns and collectively proceed through the musical twists and turns that make this song so great. A punter near the taper knows the drill and when the song finishes he says “the Iron Maiden” and is immediately followed by Bruce saying the same. The band’s signature song gets the blood pumping and the audience are completely lost in the music and sing the chorus to great effect, they go bonkers as Eddie makes his last appearance high above the ice ridden stage and the stage erupts with flames as the song ends and even in the crude amateur audience footage looks incredible.
The old school chants of “Maiden (clap 3 times) Maiden” start, remember those early live at the Marque club b-sides? The band takes a much deserved breather to prepare for the encores. Bruce is moved by emotion but recovers to introduce the band and givers them big props for being incredible musicians, he even introduces “The Count” on keyboards and quips he will probably want a pay raise. “Run To The Hills” opens the encore section in strong fashion, it is followed by “22 Acacia Avenue” and instantly the massive crowd responds in spades as they help Bruce out with the words. Such is the bands ability to make a massive gig seem like you’re in a small club, the feeling is like one among old friends. Most certainly my favorite Adrian Smith penned song, “22” delivers in a most aggressive fashion, Bruce spits out the lyrics with venom as it should be given the nature of the song. It’s an Adrian double shot as they again plow into “2 Minutes To Midnight” and the band are well into their second breath, Bruce is relentless as he demands clapping and cheering. Heavy and aggressive the song is the last of the ones that simply grind the listener to a pulp, the remaining duo of songs are more like a celebration beginning with the classic “Running Free”. A feel good version of the song for sure, its simplicity is its charm and is a perfect vehicle for audience participation.
Bruce gets the audience clapping and gets photographer Ross Halfin to snap a few pictures to commemorate the proceedings, he quickly gets back to the audience who respond in spades. The last few “Running Free’s” are beyond epic as the 100,000 strong scream in unison, it’s not over yet, the band muster the energy for a superb version of “Sanctuary”. Dave rips into the fast paced opening riff and the audience erupts, this is their last chance to go crazy and they take advantage. Band and audience work as one and delivery a rowdy and fun version of the Maiden classic to end the incredible event. Bruce thanks the audience for the past years as they take their bows and Bruce vows “We are not splitting up”, prophetic words as this would be Adrian Smith’s last tour with the band for over 10 years. Interestingly both the audio and video keep recording as the audience is treated to a fireworks display, a fitting end to this momentous event.
The DVD is quite a nice addition to the set, it is audience shot and focuses on the large viewing screens, the picture is not really sharp but adequate to watch and enjoy. The person taping the show was on the far right as evident by the angles when he pans the audience from time to time, this also helps you gauge the enormousness of the event. The audio is soundboard quality and is much different than the audience discs and is very good also, it was taped in a different area and thus gives a much different perspective of the day’s proceedings.
The menu is simple but effective single screen with the ability to choose the individual songs or the play all function. I watch this type of video on a small screen TV as it would not look good on a 50″ HD television. From memory I saw this version on a well know tracker but it was quickly removed due the audio portion so sadly I did not get a copy. Thankfully we have a silver pressed DVD! The packaging is nice, full color graphics and pictures of the event and pictures of both events ticket stubs to boot. This is all housed in a fatboy jewel case. The bottom line is that this release kicks ass in every way, a complete and comprehensive look back at one of the highlights in Iron Maiden’s career . This release exceeds my expectations for what I want from a definitive version of an epic show, the idea to put the warm up gig and audio and video of the actual event was something that has been done in the past, most notable by Master Stroke on their Queen releases and it works to great effect. Well done and highly recommended.