Live album fatigue is about to set in, as Iron Maiden return to South America for yet another concert record and video. The band sounds great, but everything else is losing momentum.
Produced by Kevin Shirley, co-produced by Steve Harris
Released 26 March 2012
Iron Maiden were now huge again, a global force of unbeatable drawing power that could fill stadiums on any continent. It makes perfect sense that they would want to document their 2010-11 The Final Frontier World Tour just like they had previously filmed and recorded the Somewhere Back In Time World Tour of 2008-09 for Flight 666.
Unfortunately, the loss of creative momentum that was signified by the drop in songwriting quality from A Matter Of Life And Death (2006) to The Final Frontier (2010) also made itself felt when Maiden moved on from their mindblowing second History tour (built on the Powerslave era) with another new album tour.
The video version of this concert recording is not one of Maiden’s greatest, owing particularly to their own infatuation with the audience and the lack of a full stage production for this leg of their tour. The album version features a crisp and punchy production by Kevin Shirley, but suffers from the setlist anemia that would trouble Maiden for a while in the 2010s.
Of the classic vintage material included, songs like The Trooper, Fear Of The Dark, The Number Of The Beast and Hallowed Be They Name have now been part of so many live albums that they begin to lose their effect. The same goes for 2 Minutes To Midnight, although this version recently made the top of our ranking of 2 Minutes live versions.
The saving grace of the album is a focus on more recent material, although the likes of Blood Brothers and Dance Of Death had fairly recently seen arguably better versions on Rock In Rio (2002) and Death On The Road (2005). Of greatest interest on En Vivo! is therefore the most current tracks, of which Coming Home is a highlight:
Maiden filmed and recorded their shows in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile in April 2011 on the Around The World In 66 Days leg of the tour, another Ed Force One project, and ultimately chose the latter for the album and video. One also suspects that marketing concerns are the deciding factor in recording live documents in South America that might more readily be bought in large quantities by South American fans that still buy physical product.
Maiden’s moves could have been decried as cynical, were it not for the fact that this line-up of the band delivers utterly convincing performances. Across the board, things are great: Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain keep every groove and nuance in the pocket, while the guitar trio of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers sound more playful and confident about their interplay and layering than ever before.
And the greatest of all is the man at the microphone: Bruce Dickinson, the one and only. Every song is brought across with the perfect amount of intensity and emotion, even as he always matches the energy of the Santiago crowd.
It is hard to single out one performance among so many great ones, but in a pinch it would be The Talisman, one of the few great songs from The Final Frontier and one that receives a live treatment here where the greatest heavy metal singer of all time delivers one of his best tracks:
The release of En Vivo! in March 2012 marked the end of Iron Maiden’s The Final Frontier cycle, as they were about to embark on their third History tour, Maiden England. That trek would take them through 2012, 2013 and 2014, leading into yet another new album project.
In retrospect it is clear to see, and hear, that Maiden’s great idea of alternating retro tours and new albums had become too routine by the middle 2010s, and it would take another few years before they found ways of reinvigorating themselves and their touring concepts. En Vivo! is the mark of a great band having ascended to a level where they now struggled to find a way forward.
En Vivo! is the least interesting Iron Maiden live album of the post-reunion era in the 2000s and 2010s, although it is certainly miles better than any of the live albums Iron Maiden had released in the 1990s. With a less predictable setlist (why didn’t Afraid To Shoot Strangers feature here rather than being out of place on the subsequent Maiden England tour?) it would have been better, but what they play does sound good.
Christer’s verdict: 4/6