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Iron Maiden – Japan Final 2016 (Zodiac 178)

Iron Maiden – Japan Final 2016Japan Final 2016 (Zodiac 178)

Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan – April 21, 2016

Disc 1 (63:25) Introduction, Doctor Doctor, Opening Movie: Take The Ed Force One, If Eternity Should Fail, Speed Of Light, Children Of The Damned, Tears Of A Clown, The Red And The Black, The Trooper, Powerslave

Disc 2 (66:58) Death Or Glory, The Book Of Souls, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Fear Of The Dark, Iron Maiden, The Number Of The Beast, MC, Blood Brothers, Wasted Years, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Iron Maiden would play just 2 dates in Japan during its Book of Souls world tour, both shows in the capital city of Tokyo and the 11,000 seat Ryogoku Kokugikan. The concert featured here on this release from the folks at Zodiac is from the second concert and is the work of “Strongest Taper Mr.”. One can assume from the moniker that either a body builder also has a side hobby of recording, or a person who has an ear, and equipment for capturing live events. Thankfully we are dealing with the latter and what this release features is a very complete, excellent audience recording, one that if one is to believe the write up on this, was done on the first row. The word truly perfect sound is used a lot in promotion, this title lives up to this description, it is excellent with perfect dynamics and balance. There is just enough audience clapping, cheering etc to provide ambience and if anything the vocals are just a tad higher in the mix, other than that this is one to turn up very loud.

The taper captures a very complete document of the performance, the introduction is six minutes of sounds of the venue, you can hear guitars checked in the distance and casual chatting. The anticipation builds as the lights dim and the strains of UFO’s Doctor, Doctor play over the PA and the Ed Force One intro movie is captured in perfect detail. The set list for the Book Of Souls tour was set throughout the tour so there are no surprises song wise If Eternity Should Fail is a solid opener, Bruce gets the audience involved quickly with a “SCREAM FOR ME TOKYO”, the band have a fondness for The Far East since their first visit in 1981. Speed Of Light follows hot on its heels, the straight forward rollicking song is Maiden at their best, the fluent and nimble fingers of Dave Murray shine in this song. “Must be Tokyo…but there’s somebody from Norway, Switzerland and Sweden” is Bruce’s introduction  to Children Of The Damned, also giving the props to the fact that Maiden fans travel very well. It’s interesting to take this song in, Bruce’s current vocal rendition of this song is like a weathered and beaten man and gives the song a unique sound. The audience is there to back up Bruce during the “oohhs”.

Bruce talks of how important it is to be in Tokyo, and reminisces about the earthquake in 2011, what some may not know is that Maiden were in Japan during that time as they had concerts scheduled but had to quickly evacuate and the concerts were canceled. The excellent Tears Of A Clown is next, culled from Adrian Smith and Steve Harris it has all the trademarks of an Adrian song, punchy riff combined with Harris time changes and is very strong in a live setting. The Red And The Black is the sole solo penned Harris track on the album, like the best Harris songs is long with a lot of cool time changes making it fly by with a great, erratic style solo from Jannick. The first disc ends with two undoubtedly strong crowd favorites, The Trooper has lost none of its live fury, crazy to hear Bruce keep up with the fast pace lyrics and nails the soaring chorus. Powerslave makes its return after a short absence, the song actually fits in very well with the Book Of Souls motif, curious in the clarity of this recording you can hear a keyboard effect that fills in a bit to make the vocals sound a bit fuller.

Death or Glory is like a prelude to Aces High, dealing with dogfights during World War I, the song is very effective life due to its catchy chorus and the fact that it is simple and to the point, another classic in the Smith / Dickinson cannon. The epic title track follows, The Book Of Souls was an impressive visual song, the full stage set of the Mayan ruins, the soldering fire spewing well above the drums, and a towering Eddie to boot, the middle section has the band locking in for a mega riff fest that has you ‘ead banging likes its 1983!. The epic song signals the end of the new tracks, from here on out it will be a fan feast of classic Maiden classics beginning with Hallowed Be Thy Name. The band has given the song a break from time to time and it was not in the last tour set, absence makes the heart grow fonder, the same can be said and again it’s incredible to hear Bruce sing the song with such precision, his voice is certainly aging and while he does not have the vocal strength of 30 years ago, he can still hit the highs. Fear Of The Dark has had a permanent part of the set list, classic Maiden at its best, as is the set ending Iron Maiden, this time complete with giant Eddie ‘ead over top the stage brings a riotous close to the set.

The encores begin with a standard The Number Of The Beast, afterwards Bruce tells the audience that they would like to do more in Japan and again gives a shout out to the people who traveled long distances to see the band, he speaks of the Maiden community and its importance, some would call this cheesy but in truth it is heartfelt and a great intro to Blood Brothers. This is one to get it all out, the crowd is encouraged to sing along and in true Maiden fashion they do. Wasted Years is the final encore, curious as the last two songs seem to tell time is of the essence and unite while we can. It’s not over yet, sure the band is finished but the Strongest Taper Mr. is not, he leaves the “tapes” rolling and captures the complete outro of Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and then brings an end to this most excellent recording (and performance).

Their packaging is what we expect from Zodiac, full color inserts adorned with Book Of Souls graphics are quite attractive, the CD’s have tour artwork of Eddie trampling a Sumo warrior. If one is looking for a document from this tour, look no further, excellent sound and packaging make for an easy title to recommend.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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