Another massive Iron Maiden world tour is always around the corner. To celebrate the frontman that brings the lyrics to life every night, we pick our TOP 5 most awesome live performances by the one and only Bruce Dickinson.
Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson returned from a serious cancer illness in 2015 to deliver some of his most impressive performances ever on the subsequent couple of Maiden tours. Picking his best ever is a nearly impossible task, but oh what fun.
Dickinson recently spoke about how he has worked to maintain his voice through decades of hectic touring schedules. We thought now would be a good time to celebrate one of the best singers in rock history by having a look at some of his greatest ever live performances.
We’ll also cringe at some not-so-good vocal jobs. That’s right, even the sun’s got dark spots and it makes us appreciate so much more the hard work involved in getting to the top!
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At his age, having passed 60 years old, Dickinson’s stamina and range are simply mind-blowing. So many classic rock singers about his age have lost most of their ability, just think about hard rock icons like Paul Stanley and Geoff Tate. They are utterly unable to deliver their material like they used to do.
Dickinson’s first stint with Maiden, 1982-1993, is the stuff of metal legend. The singer’s importance to the classic era of Iron Maiden is beyond debate. But it might be even more impressive how both Iron Maiden and Bruce Dickinson have blossomed in a second golden age since reuniting in 1999.
And read on now for Torgrim’s TOP 5 Dickinson live performances, and Christer’s ditto further down!
TORGRIM’S TOP 5
5) Trumpets of Jericho (Scream For Me Brazil, recorded 1999)
I was fortunate enough to witness this tour in a very intimate club setting in Oslo, Norway in 1998. At that point I had never seen Adrian Smith live before, so watching him walking on stage and belting out the colossal opening riff, followed by the energy bomb that is Bruce Dickinson, dangling from the chandelier from the get-go and singing his heart out for such a small crowd, was mesmerizing to say the least. This recording from Sao Paulo, Brazil is the sound of a metal king reclaiming his throne from the pretenders:
4) Remember Tomorrow (Nya Ullevi, recorded 2005)
The phony live version of this old gem on the B-side of the The Number of the Beast single is probably one of Bruce’s more emotional Maiden moments. In this Gothenburg, Sweden recording he is even more dynamic. There is so much passion in both his expression of the lyrics and his voice here that it’s a pity we’ll most likely never hear it again:
3) Revelations (Flight 666, recorded 2008)
In many ways Revelations is more of the same. You can tell he has an extremely inspired moment and he really shows the versatility of his voice in this song, both in terms of power and range. An old forgotten gem that has become a semi-staple in the setlist over the course of the past few Iron Maiden tours. Bruce makes it awesome:
2) Infinite Dreams (Maiden England, recorded 1988)
The passage “Even though it’s reached new heights, I rather like the restless nights / It makes me wonder, it makes me think, there’s more to this, I’m on the brink“ is probably my favorite moment of all time. The grandness of this song is just immense. And the way it builds into an epic climax is in large part thanks to Bruce’s way of phrasing the lyrics. Genius:
1) To Tame A Land (World Piece Tour, recorded 1983)
With a new-found confidence on the back of the 1982 Beast on the Road world tour, Bruce Dickinson was once and for all established as THE lead singer for Iron Maiden. And it shows. He sings with an extreme authority, but still exposes a playfulness that you haven’t seen to the same extent on later tours as he got more controlled. To Tame a Land is one of the more complex Maiden tunes to sing and he tears down the house with this one. It also ties in nicely with one of his best rants ever. “Fuck Frank Herbert, alright?”
TORGRIM’S WORST EVER
From Here To Eternity (A Real Live One, recorded 1992)
You can basically throw in anything from A Real Live Dead One in this category, but I choose this song as it sums up everything that was about to go wrong with the band back then. The song itself is a bland attempt to drag Maiden in a more classic rock oriented direction as they were afraid of their own legacy in many ways. Bruce himself sounds like a cheap Brian Johnson clone and it doesn’t suit him at all. Depressing and uninspired to say the least, here’s the track as it will appear in the forthcoming Donington Live 1992 DVD:
Even if this particular live recording is the nadir of many aspects of Maiden’s career, there is something good to be found there! Guest writer Adam Hansen argues that the 1992 Donington performance features one of drummer Nicko McBrain’s best moments. But there are more things to consider about Dickinson’s ups and downs…
CHRISTER’S WORST EVER
Hallowed Be Thy Name (Maiden England, recorded 1988)
As Maiden’s classic era came to a close in the late 1980s, Dickinson struggled with some of the material. He simply couldn’t sing the high registers of certain Maiden classics anymore. This had been evident since the release of the Live After Death video in 1985, and was most painfully obvious in the 1989 Maiden England video. Here’s a cringeworthy example of Dickinson’s late 80s vocal struggles:
CHRISTER’S TOP 5
5) Gods Of War (Alive At The Marquee Club, recorded 1994)
Having ended his original stint as Maiden singer with the experimental singing of No Prayer For The Dying and Fear Of The Dark, Dickinson sounds closer to his old self on this Marquee recording with his solo band Skunkworks. The violent, shredding scream is still prominent, but the verses display an emotional depth which is delivered with pitch perfection. And then the chorus SOARS! Check out Dickinson’s Alive In Studio A album for many great performances in this transitional period.
4) Back From The Edge / Inertia (Skunkworks Live, recorded 1996)
Impossible to pick just one! This is the sound of Dickinson regaining supreme mastery of his voice after the vocal experiments of the early 1990s. He is on his way into the career-high performances of Accident Of Birth and The Chemical Wedding, still feeling his way but obviously having opened up new avenues of technique and delivery. If you don’t own the Anthology DVD set where the Skunkworks concert is found, you’re not a Dickinson fan:
3) Revelations (Flight 666, recorded 2008)
It might be argued that Dickinson’s performance of this Piece Of Mind classic was even better in the 2005 Gothenburg show, but when it comes to official releases this 2008 Sydney performance is a complete blinder, as Torgrim explains above. A perfect example of how much better the classic era tunes can sound with a modern day Dickinson.
2) The Talisman (En Vivo!, recorded 2011)
At some point his voice must eventually give in, right? Well, it seems that whenever you think it might be over, Dickinson bounces back with completely supernatural performances like this one. A new song, from a new album, with one of the most challenging registers in the band’s history. And Dickinson just fucking nails it:
1) Hallowed Be Thy Name (Beast Over Hammersmith, recorded 1982)
Back to the beginning! 1982 is really ground zero for both Maiden and Dickinson. It’s a shame that this incredible London performance was not released as a live album in the early 80s but at least it’s now in the pantheon of Maiden live DVDs, albeit in heavily edited form. What it means for Maiden to become the biggest metal band on the planet is perfectly clear in this performance, and Dickinson’s unbelievable vocals lead the charge:
You’ve probably noticed that songs off Maiden’s Live After Death masterpiece are absent from our list. The reason for this is simply that there was considerable doctoring of Dickinson’s vocals for the album version, making it difficult to treat them as LIVE performances. We also don’t think that his un-doctored performances in the video version quite match those we have mentioned here.
There is no doubt that Dickinson’s legacy is huge. The classic Iron Maiden era in the 1980s is one thing, and his solo work in the 1990s is another. But because of his truce with Steve Harris and the return to Maiden in 1999 his already impressive legacy has grown immeassurably over the past two decades.
The fact that Bruce has maintained his voice in the shape that we witnessed on the recent Legacy Of The Beast tour sets him apart from just about anyone else. Here is a great video by New York vocal coach Kevin Richards, where he explains and demonstrates how Dickinson sings and why he is still on top of his game: