Real Madrid Pavilion, Madrid, Spain – May 13, 1998
Disc 1 (63:13) Dance Of The Knights, Futureal, The Angel And The Gambler, Man On The Edge, Lightning Strikes Twice, Heaven Can Wait, The Clansman, When Two Worlds Collide, Lord Of The Flies, 2 Minutes To Midnight
Disc 2 (67:24) Sign Of The Cross, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, The Evil That Men Do, The Clairvoyant, Fear Of The Dark, Iron Maiden, The Number Of The Beast, The Trooper, Sanctuary, Outro
For me time has warmed to the Blaze Bayley years in Iron Maiden’s history, I remember buying the X-Factor when it came out, listened once and put it on the shelf. I did the same thing with Virtual XI and it was not like “I hate this” it was more of being in a different frame of mind musically. After some time I dusted off the X-Factor and listened to it in my car, and after listening for a week or so non stop found out what I had been missing. There album is very dark yet the Maiden creativity was there and it really gained my appreciation to what Blaze bought to the table. To not explore these two albums is like not exploring Ripper Owens records with Priest, for those naysayers I say your loss as there is some really great music on them.
I only have three bootlegs of the Blaze period, one being the Virtual Lights Strikes Over France (RR 015/16), a recording from a few weeks prior to this recording. Needless to say I was excited yet skeptical about this new title when I listened to an online sample it did not sound all that great for being called “definitive”. Well I am certainly glad I plunked down my hard earned cash for this title. Recorded about two thirds into the European tour to support Virtual XI, this soundboard is heralded as being the best recording of the tour. It is certainly an excellent recording. The balance is near perfect, Dave Murray is a bit lower in the mix than Jannick and from time to time Blaze’s vocals are a bit low but there is enough crowd noise mixed in to give it some ambience and the recording has a nice punch to it.
The intro is played over the PA and crowd anticipation builds, the band hit the stage with Futureal, the song that opens the Virtual XI album as well. The song continues the long line of aggressive openers the band has employed over the years. The band fires on all cylinders, giving the feeling that this will be a good night indeed. Blaze is in good voice and the band is off to a strong start. Maiden is all about the present (unless they are doing their retro tours), so much of the first half of the show is new material with all but two songs from Virtual XI played. The Angel and the Gambler was the main single from the record, and keeps the record continuity going. Only thing that is a drawback is the keys are a bit high in the mix, the song has a great sing along chorus, something that typifies this period, yes Blaze gets the crowd in a sing along. The energy level does not diminish as the band rip into Man On The Edge from the X-Factor, fricking brilliant song (hilarious side note: my wife is a huge Maiden fan, just not Blaze and I have the sound cranked and I get the “look” every time she walks by).
Heaven Can Wait is the first Bruce era tune, the audience go bonkers, Blaze does a great job on the vocals, one of the older songs where his vocals fit in well. IMO the best song on Virtual XI is The Clansman, typical Steve Harris epic song in the tradition of Alexander The Great, Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, Sign Of The Cross, etc. Great lyrics of 13th century Scotland, Braveheart and all that, great chorus and one of the few Blaze songs to make it into the Brave New World tour. 2 Minutes sounds great as usual, Blaze could have just let the crowd sing it as they do so anyway! The Educated Fool is the last new one and rounds out the first disc.
The epic Sign Of The Cross begins the second disc, the crowd sings with Blaze for a few parts and is well received, some how Blaze messes up a bit with the lyrics…ruining the Eternal Flame section. It’s all classic Maiden from here on out, I have always thought that Blaze struggled with Hallowed Be Thy Name, not tonally but with the fast pace and quick delivery of lyric needed, he does admirably and the punters need it! The band stay in the latter Bruce era material for a while, Love the Blaze versions of Afraid To Shoot Strangers since I heard it on Best Of The Beast compilation, The Evil That Men Do and Clairvoyant are also strong Blaze numbers and make for a hang on to your seat ending, well after a rousing Fear Of The Dark into very aggressively brutal Iron Maiden.
The encores are standard fare, well a couple are. The Number Of The Beast is good, it has to be played, what I like about this tour is they dust off The Trooper. Fast aggressive trooper in all its glory, yeah Blaze sounds like it’s killing him but it’s great! The last song is Sanctuary, this song fits Blaze perfectly, the band sound like they’re having fun and there is a lot of great nasty feedback via one Mr. David Murray. You know a lot of boots kick around the term definitive but you know what, it certainly describes the performance.
Packaging is typical Zodiac, full color inserts with Virtual XI style graphics, cover insert opens to reveal the Maiden football team and there is the Angel And Gambler inspired Eddie pic as well. Picture CD’s, numbered sticker (with Ed Hunter pic) all housed in a slim lined jewel case. Great title, now give us one from the X-Factour!