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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Iron Maiden: Rock in Rio (2001)

"Scream for me Brazil!"
- Bruce Dickinson

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: September 24, 2002

Stars: Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, Steve Harris, Nicko McBrain
Other Stars: Eddie
Director: Dean Karr

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 02h:03m:53s
Release Date: August 20, 2002
UPC: 074645426990
Genre: metal

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Out of any conceivablemusic genre, I believe 1980s heavy metal has probably aged the least gracefully. However, there is one metal band that has remained true to their roots, and has prospered with pride and integrity through nearly three decades now. Twenty-two years after their debut album, Iron Maiden has successfully continued their heavy metal legacy. With a unique blend of harmonies and bone crunching guitar riffs, Maiden's songwriting techniques transcend the pitfalls of the metal genre and prove to be a step above songs by similar bands that lived such brief success. Nearly 15 years after my appreciation for the band had waned, Iron Maiden: Rock in Rio brought back the fan in me.

A band that has gone through innumerable changes in personnel, this concert features the quintessential five members of Iron Maiden, as well as their latest guitarist, Janick Gers. Performing to 250,000 fans at the Rock in Rio Festival in January of 2001, these six members sound tighter than any incarnation of Iron Maiden I have ever heard perform. I was immediately struck by how much the band has progressed in both talent and maturity. Most noteworthy is the vocal work from lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. I have always found Dickinson's live performances to be somewhat disappointing, as if he is straining his voice. However, Bruce has clearly been practicing the art of control, and he was at the top of his game for Rock in Rio; I honestly have never heard him sing better.

Drummer Nicko McBrain also appears as if he has been practicing the fundamentals of his instrument. Though several of the songs are much faster than their studio counterparts, gone are the erratic tempo fluctuations that plagued Nicko's live performances in the past. His strong rhythms combined with Steve Harris' galloping bass lines worked together to form a solid foundation. Though he is one of the band's key elements, founding member and bassist, Steve Harris, does not display the vigorous presence that was once a staple of Maiden concerts. His repetitive triplet bass riffs have become so redundant that they now sound rather distracting. Harris is certainly a superior bass player, but I feel as if he has not continued to develop his style over the years. Harris also attempted to edit the inconceivable amount of camera footage from this concert with dismal results. The cuts occur at a dizzying pace; I do not believe there was a single shot that lasted for more than one second. The result is a chaotic and somewhat nauseating visual experience.

A trio of guitarists rounds out the lineup. Original member, Dave Murray, proves his worth as one of the band's strongest members. Displaying a keen understanding not only of his instrument but also of music in general, Murray has never, to my knowledge, delivered a lackluster performance. I was also thrilled to see the underrated Adrian Smith back in the band after a ten-year hiatus. Smith is a more laid back guitarist than one normally finds in a metal band, focusing more on tone and technique over showmanship. His unique style complements the band tremendously, though I feel as if he is not given enough opportunity to let his talents shine. The band needs to recognize Adrian as a valuable asset before he decides to leave them a second time. The black sheep of the bunch is Janick Gers. He may be the most technically proficient of all the guitarists, but he is also the most annoying. Janick's stage antics are so silly that they undermine the power of the show and diminish the unique style that has helped Iron Maiden to flourish for over 20 years. Quite simply, he does not belong in this band.

While a noble idea, Maiden could have made much better use of these three guitarists. In the past, the band often layered three-part guitar harmonies on their studio albums, even when they only had two guitarists. Now graced with three guitar players, the opportunities are not utilized to the fullest extent. I did not hear one moment of three-part harmony throughout the duration of the concert, but rather simple octaves underscored by power chords. This is a major disappointment for what could have been a showcase for Maiden's use of textured harmonies.

While Rock in Rio contains several Maiden classics like Wrathchild and The Trooper, long standing fans will most likely find themselves wanting more. However, I was amazed to find that the older songs did not sound nearly as polished as the newer songs. Prior to Rock in Rio, I had heard Maiden's latest album, Brave New World, once, and I did not care for it. Yet, I found myself more impressed with its songs in a live setting. They take on an energy that did not present itself on the studio album. The potent intensity of The Wicker Man is a perfect power-driven opener, while Dream of Mirrors highlights Maiden's knack for epic storytelling. Much to my surprise, I found the latest songs to be much more satisfying than the vintage material.

Heavy metal has always been as much about putting on a dazzling stage show as it has been about musical integrity. Iron Maiden excels in both of these areas. Make no mistake about it, Maiden certainly succumbs to the clichés of the genre, but they do it with a bold style all their own. I doubt Rock in Rio will draw in loads of new fans, but diehard Maiden fans are going to eat this up.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 image transfer appears video-based, but do not be fooled by this. The picture is strikingly vivid and smooth throughout. Colors are amazing with brilliant vibrancy, while black level is as deep as I could ever hope for. Distractions, such as shimmering and pixelization, are negligible. This is a fantastic visual experience that admirably recreates the concert experience in a home theater environment.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Anybody who has even seen Maiden live knows that the band performs at deafening volume levels. Just like an Iron Maiden concert, the audio on this DVD is loud enough to cause significant hearing loss in a short period of time. I normally listen to DVDs at an Avia calibrated level of around 5 decibels below reference. After listening to Rock in Rio for all of 10 minutes at this level, I noticed that my receiver was undergoing significant strain. This is a warning to those who like to crank it up; the audio on this DVD is, quite literally, system threatening. This is not to say that it is unpleasant. The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS mixes may be loud, but both are incredibly clean and clear. The subsonic bass from Nicko's kick drum and Steve's bass guitar pounded through my chest like a battering ram. The front soundstage is one of the most uniquely satisfying concert mixes I have heard. The three guitars are each separately locked in a single channel, with Dave dominating the left, Janick dominating the right, and Adrian dominating the center. This not only provides a convincing soundstage, but also allows viewers the option to isolate the sound of any one guitarist. Bruce's vocals are vacant from the center channel, but his voice is strongly placed in the left and right mains, conveying a sense that it is front and center. Surrounds are mainly reserved for audience noise, which proves to be much more aggressive than I had initially expected. With the exception of nearly over heating my system, these soundtracks are close to perfect.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese with remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:58m:34s

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews
  2. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: While a bit scant in the extras department, I was delighted to find that all of them are housed on disc two, reserving the entirety of disc one for the concert. Each disc comes in attractive slim cardboard packaging complete with photographs of the band, as well as the essential artwork of Maiden's mascot, Eddie.

Starting off disc two are candid interviews with each band member. Rather than the typical, drab interview sessions where the interviewee sits in a chair answering an onslaught of uninteresting questions, these segments follow the band members while enjoying their hobbies on a day off. Dave and Nicko have fun golfing, while Adrian finds solace in fishing. Steve plays soccer, Janick chats with the Brazilian natives, and Bruce fulfills his long time passions of fencing and flight training. These segments are wholly entertaining, as we not only are given insight to their professional lives, but their personal lives as well. It is a joy to find that these British headbangers appear to be as down to earth as they come. What I thought was going to be one or two minutes of boring interviews ended up as nearly 45 minutes of entertainment.

A Day in the Life is a ten-minute featurette offering the viewer a candid look at the band on the road. Most of this brief featurette shows the events leading to and following the Rock in Rio Festival. Though an admirable peek at the life of a rock star, this featurette proves too short to generate any real excitement.

The gallery consists of 50 exclusive photos taken from Iron Maiden's South American tour. Each image advances automatically and features a running commentary from official band photographer, Ross Halfin. Unfortunately, neither the photos nor the commentary are terribly interesting.

Also included is information on the Iron Maiden website, as well as a page of DVD credits. Be sure to also look for a silly easter egg on the main menu screen of disc two.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

I approached Iron Maiden: Rock in Rio as a mildly amusing way to relive a fond period of my youth, and expected nothing more than a trip down nostalgia's lane. A mere 10 minutes into the concert, I found myself pleasantly surprised to re-discover the reasons why I initially found this band so appealing. A flawless DTS audio track and one of the best Iron Maiden performances I have seen helped to rekindle my belief in a band that I had long forgotten.


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