Review: “Rock In Rio [DVD Version]” By Iron Maiden

Well, since I’m still in something of a musical mood at the moment, I thought that I’d take a break from talking about Nightwish and look at something by one of my other favourite bands – the one and only Iron Maiden. In particular, I’ll be taking a look at their “Rock In Rio” concert DVD boxset from 2002.

This was the very first Iron Maiden DVD that I ever got (my first Iron Maiden CD was either a charity single taken from this album, or the CD bonus tracks on the “Carmageddon II” game disc) and, despite the fact that one of my favourite T-shirts is based on the cover art for this DVD, it was something that I’d forgotten about slightly. It had languished unwatched for years on the shelf above my computer until, during a slight moment of boredom shortly before writing this article, I decided to dig it out again….

Wow! I can’t believe that this DVD is over 15 years old! How time flies!

Rock In Rio” is a recording of Iron Maiden’s set at the Rock In Rio festival in Brazil in 2001.

This was about a year or two after Bruce Dickinson rejoined the band following several years apart from them, and the DVD is something of a celebration of both this and of the beginning of Maiden’s more “modern” phase. Gone is the more falsetto-heavy sound of Bruce’s original time with the band during the 1980s and 1990s. Instead, it is replaced by a slightly louder, deeper and more serious singing style that is synonymous with Maiden’s more current stuff.

Scream for me Brazil!!

Although it probably took place during the tour for Iron Maiden’s then-new “Brave New World” album, Rock In Rio’s two-hour setlist is crammed with classic songs, with only about five songs from “Brave New World” making their way onto the stage. But, since “Brave New World” is probably one of Maiden’s weaker albums (if such a thing even exists), the classics-filled setlist really helps to show the band at their best.

One interesting thing here is that Bruce also sings both old songs that were originally performed by Paul Di’Anno (“Wrathchild”, “Iron Maiden” and “Sanctuary”) and, more surprisingly, two songs from Blaze Bayley’s then-recent tenure with the band (“The Clansman” and “Sign Of The Cross”).

Needless to say, he brings his own unique interpretation and energy to these songs, turning Di’Anno’s more punkish renditions of these songs into something closer to modern Iron Maiden and turning Bayley’s broodingly dramatic performances into something even more epic and dramatic.

Seriously, I cannot praise Bruce’s rendition of “Sign Of The Cross” in this concert highly enough! It is, by far, the stand-out track on the DVD. Perhaps even the definitive interpretation of the song in question. He takes a solemn, ominous, emotional song and turns it into ten minutes of spine-tinglingly energetic passion and menacing quietness.

The Siiiiiigggnnnn Offff The Crrrrooosss!!!!!!

In terms of Iron Maiden’s performance, they are as energetic and enthusiastic as you would expect – with each song roaring loudly through the speakers as Bruce Dickinson runs and leaps around the stage in his usual fashion, whilst the other band members swagger around and have fun.

There isn’t a weak or lacklustre performance during any part of the concert. All of this passion and energy is emphasised through a lot of fast video editing, which rarely lingers on a single shot or camera angle for more than a few seconds.

Of course, all of the movement and quick editing makes getting screenshots for this review a bit of a challenge. But, oh well…

Seriously, if there’s one thing to be said for this concert, it is that the band are having fun. And it is a joy to watch! Bruce occasionally makes amusing comments to the audience, whilst the other members of the band do all sorts of hilariously silly and/or cool stuff, like throwing their guitars into the air. You really get the sense that these are six expert musicians who love nothing better than putting on a great show.

And what a show it is! The stage design, lighting design and filming still stands up to this day! Unlike the more limited concert halls from many of their earlier live videos (and the one time I actually saw them live – at a theatre in London in 2006), the band take full advantage of the extra real estate offered by the gargantuan outdoor stage. Multicoloured lights glow beautifully in the darkness, a helicopter hovers above the festival to provide a few dramatic aerial shots, and then there’s the stage design itself.

Seriously, this is one of the coolest-looking stages that I’ve ever seen!

It is truly epic!

The stage is filled with scaffolding and corrugated metal panels, which help to lend the stage a slightly “dystopian sci-fi” kind of look, whilst also providing a handy climbing frame for Bruce during a few instrumental moments. The backdrop changes several times during the set, varying between art from the band’s albums and a plain black background.

And, yes, Derek Riggs’ awesome cover art for “Number Of The Beast” also makes a welcome appearance too 🙂

Needless to say- later in the set – the band’s mascot Eddie makes his appearance. This time, he’s a giant wicker man filled with pagan-style dancers.

Surprisingly though, Eddie doesn’t appear during “The Wicker Man” at the beginning of the concert, but during “Iron Maiden” (about two-thirds of the way through the show) instead.

Naturally, Eddie also has glowing red eyes too. Because, would you expect anything less?

My only real criticism of this DVD has to do with the packaging. For some reason, the discs are packaged inside a thin cardboard sleeve and held in place by two sticky pieces of sponge. To call this flimsy would be an understatement!

In fact, when I opened this DVD case after quite a few years, both discs almost fell onto the floor and the piece of sponge holding the special features disc in place seemed to be missing. Needless to say, this has caused scratching to both discs and, to my horror, I found that a few moments of the concert disc were unplayable as a result. Likewise, when I put the concert disc back into the case, I had a rather difficult time getting it to sit back on the spongy circle, which seemed to have expanded somewhat.

As for the special features disc, I didn’t really have time to rewatch it before writing this review but, from what I can remember of it, it contains documentary footage of the band during their time in Brazil, as well as interviews with the band etc….

I might be confusing it with another Iron Maiden DVD but, if I remember rightly, one of the cool things I remember from watching this disc when I was a teenager was the fact that it contained a few silly little easter eggs hidden throughout the various menus etc…

All in all, DVD packaging aside, “Rock In Rio” has stood the test of time surprisingly well. It is two hours of pure energy and passion, and it is an absolutely stellar introduction to the band if you’ve never heard them before. If you’re looking for an epic music video, you can’t go wrong with this one! Whether you watch it in one sitting or just skip from song to song, it’s something that can be enjoyed again and again.

Yes, it might lack some of the pyrotechnics and/or background animations that characterise more modern concert footage from metal bands, but it is still pretty much timeless.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least five.

Review: “Margaret Cho – Beautiful” (Stand-Up Comedy DVD)

2015 Artwork Margaret Cho Beautiful Review sketch

A couple of months ago, I discovered Margaret Cho on Youtube and I just couldn’t stop watching clips from her shows. Seriously, she’s hilarious.

So, when I saw that one of her DVDs was surprisingly cheap on Amazon, I just had to get it. That DVD was of a show that she filmed in 2008 called “Beautiful”.

This is the first time that I’ve reviewed a stand-up comedy DVD, so I’m not quite sure how to do this – but this review will probably contains SPOILERS.

“Beautiful” was filmed before both the 2008 US presidential election and the disastrous proposition eight vote in California and, like a lot of stand-up comedy DVDs, it begins with short interviews with Margaret Cho and with members of the audience waiting for the show to begin.

Although this segment isn’t very funny, it is still wonderfully uplifting and cool – since Margaret Cho talks about beauty for a while and many of the audience members are wonderfully happy (and occasionally very cute) couples. Seriously, it’s worth getting the DVD for this segment alone.

As for the show itself, although Margaret Cho talks about politics a little bit (and has a couple of hilarious routines about Srarh Palin and John McCain), most of the show is about both her sex life and about sex in general – and, yes, she has a wonderfully hilarious and occasionally cynical turn of phrase when it comes to finding different ways to describe various body parts.

The show then ends with Cho singing a song, then there’s lots of joyously wonderful backstage footage and audience interviews that plays during the credits. In addition to this, Amanda Palmer’s “Leeds United” plays in the background over the credits – which, if you’re an Amanda Palmer fan – is a wonderful bonus.

One of the first things I will say was that, when I ordered the DVD last November, Amazon lied to me! I’m being serious – the UK DVD cover image on their site had a giant red “18 certificate” on it. And, well, I thought, “this will be brilliantly outrageous!

So, imagine my disappointment when the DVD arrived and there was a wimpy little “15 certificate” on the cover instead. And then, as if to rub salt into the wound, it had the words “live and uncut” in large letters on the back.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a show for the prudish by any stretch of the imagination. But, well, there’s an immature part of my mind that still, even in my twenties, feels wonderfully rebellious when I watch an “18 rated” DVD. So, through no fault of Margaret Cho’s, I felt slightly disappointed before I even watched the DVD.

Anyway, going back to what I said about this not being a show for the prudish – I mean it. Most of “Beautiful” is about sex and this is both one of the show’s greatest strengths and one of it’s greatest weaknesses. Although a lot of the risque jokes are extremely imaginative and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, there are just slightly too many of them.

No, I’m not being a “Daily Mail” and/or “Guardian”-reading prude when I say that there are too many sex jokes in “Beautiful”. I’m saying it because there isn’t really enough variety in the show.

When you watch a two-minute Youtube clip of Margaret Cho talking about sex, it’s incredibly funny. But, when you watch eighty minutes of it, it starts to get – for want of a much better word – slightly boring.

So, I wish she’d broken it up a bit and talked about other stuff occasionally. Risque comedy is funniest when it’s unexpected and shocking, not when you can easily predict what the next joke will be about.

Still, saying this, she manages to talk about this one subject in a variety of interesting and imaginative ways. But this is still a DVD that is best enjoyed in short instalments rather than all at once.

Even though the subject matter of Cho’s jokes in “Beautiful” gets a little bit repetitive, her delivery is absolutely brilliant and this is certainly one of those comedy shows that has to be watched rather than just listened to. Plus, well, Margaret Cho is just an incredibly cool person too and there’s loads of LGBT-related stuff in this show too – which was quite refreshing to watch.

So, although – as I said- this is a DVD that is best watched in short instalments, “Beauitful” is still an incredibly fun, uplifting and feel-good show. In retrospect, I should have probably ordered “Assassin” instead, but I still quite liked this show.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get between three and four.