June 19, 2006

Music DVD Review: Bruce Dickinson - Anthology

Let me first state that this 3 DVD collection is massive. If you are a fan of Bruce, Maiden, or rock and metal in general, this may be something that you will want in your collection. I am not terribly familiar with the majority of Bruce's solo work. I remember hearing "Tattooed Millionaire" many years ago, and I recently heard, and reviewed his Tyranny of Souls release. To make matters worse, I was also a late adopter of the genius that is Iron Maiden. That doesn't stop me from trying to make up for lost time with great releases such as this, and recognizing Bruce as one of the greatest frontmen of all time. Well, enough of my babbling, let's take a look at this treasure trove of metal goodness.

Disk 1
First up is the concert video Dive! Dive! Live!. The concert is listed as being 70 minutes long on the back of the case, but is is nearly 90 minutes. It was recorded at the Town and Country Club in Los Angeles on August 14,1990 during the Tattooed Millionaire Tour. His band was made up of future Iron Maiden member Janick Gers on guitar, Andy Carr on bass, and Dickie Fliszar on the drums.

This is not Iron Maiden, and for that I think I would have to say that I am happy, it shows a different aspect of Dickinson. This is stripped down, straight up rock. It was very different seeing him in this atmosphere, as my other live experience has been with the Rock in Rio and Death on the Road releases. This concert is devoid of any big stage set, no crazy lighting, and a lot less stage space. Dickinson took his band on a club tour, meaning smaller stages and crowds, but increased intimacy. The performance was a lot looser than I am used to from the technically precise Maiden, that is not a bad thing as they sounded incredible.

Watching this first concert reminded me of when I went to see James Labrie (of Dream Theater) during his solo tour last year. I was not familiar with the music, but I was with the voice, and the quality of that voice and the songs he delivered came together for a great show. Even not knowing those songs did not keep me from loving every second of it.

Right from the start the atmosphere was electric. The fans new they were in for a good show, and Bruce was definitely going to deliver. Highlights of the set include "Born in 58," the WWII inspired "Dive Dive Dive," which was followed by an impressive drum solo, and the bluesy "The Ballad of Mutt." Bruce and crew also deliver a rocking, sped up, version of the David Bowie classic "All the Young Dudes." The highlight of the set would have to be the insanely high energy "No Lies" which features an wild solo from Janick Gers. That is where the main set ended.

Bruce returned to the stage to bring the energy back down with the acoustic "Fog on the Thyne" and "Winds of Change." The 5 song encore also featured the one Maiden song of the night, "Bring Your Daughter ... To the Slaughter."

The video quality isn't the greatest. Detail is not terribly sharp, and their is a lot of artifacting in the blackness. I have a feeling that this is the best it is going to look, as I feel the problems lie in the source video. Overall, I have been happy with worse. The audio, on the other hand, sounds excellent, it is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The stereo mix sounds very good, balancing the instruments nicely and using the full stereo field.

Next up on the first disk is Skunkworks Live which was recorded in Pamplona and Girona, Spain on May 31st and June 1st 1996 during the aptly named Skunkworks Tour. This lineup features Alex Dickson on guitar, Chris Dale on bass, and Alessandro Elena on drums. This concert runs approximately 60 minutes.

This concert picks up Bruce on tour with his band, dubbed Skunkworks, putting on another great show. The aura is very similar to the first concert of the set. The stage features a stripped down setup, the band, their instruments, a few lights, thats all you need.

Watching Bruce work his magic up there is quite a site. His powerful voice resonating through the hall. It reminds me of an interview with him that was in the Metal: A Headbanger's Journey documentary. In the interview he talks about how a good frontman can shrink the venue, make the show more intimate for everyone from the front to the back. This concert is a good example of him doing this. Watch him as he roams the stage giving all areas equal eye time, inviting them in. That is something that makes Bruce a legend, and his voice of course.

This show, as a whole, is very good, but not quite as good as Dive Dive Live. One good thing is that there is only one song carried over from the other setlist, so this show brings a whole new set of rocking with it. Highlights of this set include "Back from the Edge," "Meltdown," "Dreamstate," and my favorite of the show, "Tears of the Dragon."

The venue looks like an old warehouse, open and long with high windows along the side with a stage set up at one end. The fans filled all the empty space, front to back and side to side, and were into every note.

The concert is presented in widescreen, looks like 1.78:1. It looks decent, but suffers the same problems as the first set, there is a lot of artifacting and the detail isn't all that sharp. I am willing to forgive, as the strength of the show warrants a pass. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.o, and it does a good job of representing the music.

The first disk is now complete. It has a pair of excellent concerts showing the master in excellent form. We are off to a good start.

Disk 2
The second disk contains a single feature, Scream for Me Brazil, filmed in Sao Paolo, Brazil during the 1999 Chemical Wedding Tour. His band featured his songwriting partner Roy Z on guitar, joining him is Iron Maiden alum Adrian Smith on the six string, Eddie Casillas on bass, and Dave Ingraham behind the drum kit.

This 60 minute concert rocks harder than either show on the first disk. It features a thicker and more aggressive sound, most likely due to the two guitarists on stage, as well as Bruce's voice sounding a lot bigger and more like his Maiden material. The overall feel is still a bit stripped down, still showing a different aspect of his game. Where Iron Maiden has a rather technically precise sound, Dickinson's solo work sounds a bit looser, focusing more around his vocals and feauring a much more rock style.

The songs have a bit more of an epic feel to them, with songs like "Gates of Urizen," "Killing Floor," and "Darkside of Aquarius." Bruce seems to be the most relaxed in this set over the other two shows. He tears into each successive song with massive amounts of energy, watching him own the stage is invigorating. Like in the previous shows, watch how he involves the crowd, it is great watching him work. Perhaps, one day, I will get to see him live.

This show is presented in a 1.33:1 ratio and is accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. It sounds and looks decent. Good show.

Disk 3
This third disk does not contain any concert material. The centerpiece is a collection of all the videos that were shot for Bruce's solo work, up to, but not including, Tyranny of Souls. Even better, each video has an introduction from Bruce. explaining how each video came to be. For a video collection, it is quite a fascinating inclusion, and he goes into more depth than I have seen on any other video collection. The videos themselves are pretty good, even if many of them seem so dated watching them now.

Something else that is included here is the Samson video film Biceps of Steel. Samson was Bruce's band prior to Iron Maiden, and this was his video debut. Prior to the video Bruce also gave a little history on the video and what ended up happening to the band and the label that it was signed to. I had never heard Samson before, but now, after hearing them, I may try to track some of it down. The video was pretty funny, as it follows the exploits of a super roadie as he takes on club security and is seduced by the club manager. Talk about your classic metal moments.

The last thing on here is 50 minute interview with the master concerning many aspects of his solo career. Among the topics covered are the genesis of concept for his latest solo album, Tyranny of Souls, his relationship with long time songwriting partner Roy Z, differences between his solo work and being with Iron Maiden, among other things.

Bottomline. This is an incredible set, there is so much footage to delve into, and very little overlap. Bruce is an undeniable legend, a legend who still tears it up! This 3 DVD set is a testament to his legacy as a solo artist. An essential for fans and a definite must have for metal fans in general. What are you waiting for?

Higly Recommended.
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Anonymous said...

thank you....

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