Iron Maiden unleashed Live After Death on October 14, 1985 and what many believe to be the single greatest heavy metal concert album of all time has rocked the universe nonstop ever since.
In honor of this metal milestone, let’s count down Maiden’s mightiest live tracks, taken from Live After Death as well as the band’s array of other official concert recordings.
These include a number of live B-sides, along with the EP and LP releases such as Live!! + One (1980); Maiden Japan (1981); A Real Live One (1993); A Real Dead One (1993); Live at Donington (1993); A Real Live Dead One (1998); Rock in Rio (2002); BBC Archives (2002); Beast Over Hammersmith (2002); Death on the Road (2005); Flight 666 (2009), En Vivo! (2012); and Maiden England ’88 (2013).
In the thirty years since Live After Death, Iron Maiden has endured personnel changes, health crises, and all the usual trials and tribulations of a first-class iconic rock-and-roll force. Today, they continue to create monumental studio albums and play sold-out shows to stadiums packed with worshippers all over the globe. Love live Iron Maiden—live and otherwise!
“Running Free” – Live After Death
As one of Iron Maiden’s first real louder-than-life anthems, the original “Running Free” is a bare-knuckled punch-up from their rough-and-tumble self-titled debut. Prior to Live After Death, it was tough to imagine how operatic frontman Bruce Dickinson would interpret initial singer Paul Di’Anno’s street-fighter take on the song. Following Live After Death, it was hard to believe we’d lived so long without having both versions.
“Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” – Maiden England
The epic title track of Maiden’s 1988 Seventh Son of a Seventh Son gets fleshed out to ten-plus minute resplendence on Maiden England from the following year. Hearing the song always feels like sonically watching a movie—in this live track, the saga seems to leap straight into your brain.
“The Wicker Man” – Rock in Rio
The Wicker Man (1973) is a horror film masterpiece starring Christopher Lee as the lord of a pagan island.
It is both intrinsically British and heavy metal in its nature. As such, The Wicker Man provides perfect fodder for an Iron Maiden musical interpretation.
The group’s song of the same name opens the rollicking Rock in Rio collection with the scorching heat and ritualistic conjuring of ancient gods that marks the climax of the movie—only everybody gets to go home in non-charred form at the end.
“Remember Tomorrow” – Best of the B-Sides
As the live-in-Italy flipside of the “Number of the Beast” single, “Remember Tomorrow” taps the potency of early Maiden and gushes it forth as a slow burn blowout. It is unforgettable, yesterday and today.
“Moonchild” – Flight 666
The spine-snapping “Moonchild” on Flight 666 is a 2008 performance from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The crowd alone keeps a perfect beat, but, fret not, the Maidens more than match even that level of excitement.
“Wildest Dreams” – Death on the Road
An operatic chorus brings Iron Maiden to the stage in Dortmund, Germany. Their sudden explosion into “Wildest Dreams” then brings Death on the Road, screamingly, to life.
“Where Eagles Dare” – A Real Dead One
“Whatever the problem is, Clint Eastwood is going to fix it!” announces Bruce Dickinson in front of a wildly appreciative Dutch crowd. “Where Eagles Dare,” inspired by Eastwood’s 1968 big-screen WWII adventure, then takes flight liked a flock of winged beasts as mentioned in the title.
“The Prisoner” – “The Clairvoyant” single Donington 1988
The 17-episode British TV series The Prisoner (1967-68) blew minds worldwide. Its fancifully surreal science fiction saga chronicled lost-and-confused hero Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) intrepidly seeking an identity so he can break free of the nonsensical village in which he’s held captive.
The show’s premise is deeply metal and Iron Maiden turned it into one hard rock’s most incendiary cries for liberty on The Number of the Beast. That passion rings out even more potently on the live version taped at Donington in 1988 that appears as the B-side of the single, “The Clairvoyant.”
“Wrathchild” – Maiden Japan
“Wrathchild,” from Killers, became one of Iron Maiden’s most in-demand songs early on, and it always slays in concert. Somehow, this live firestorm only made international pressings of Maiden Japan (including the U.S. release). If you fell in one of those unlucky “Wrathchild”-less territories, it would have been worth traveling overseas back in ’81 to get a proper copy.
“Flight of Icarus” – Live After Death
Between their various World War combat anthems, Bruce Dickinson’s hard-working status as a world class pilot, and the eventual arrival of their private jumbo jet Ed Force One, flight has always loomed large in the imagination of Iron Maiden. So, too, has ancient mythology. “Flight of Icarus,” particularly via Live After Death, is a unique musical experience in that it is so heavy, it eventually defies gravity.
“22 Acacia Avenue” – Beast Over Hammersmith
As the address where Charlotte the Harlot herself might have plied her trade, “22 Acacia Avenue” stands proud among metal’s most heroic honoring of a brothel address. The cheekiness and raw sex of the original composition gets pounded most effectively (pun, of course, intended) when played live on Beast Over Hammersmith.
“Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” – A Real Live One
One of rock’s all-time great titles, “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter,” gets an all-time great concert treatment on A Real Live One. How Helsinki, Finland’s Ice Hall didn’t melt as Maiden lit up this number is not something that can be easily surmised from listening to it burn.
“Infinite Dreams” – Maiden England
Maiden England began as a 1989 VHS release; an official soundtrack CD came out five years later. The song’s structure as a slowly mounting tale of interdimensional visions and cosmic dread plays especially well in concert. This version recorded in Birmingham in November 1988 remains especially spooky and luminous.
“The Evil That Men Do” – Live at Donington
Named for the same Shakespeare quote that begat one of Charles Bronson’s absolutely most savage movies, “The Evil That Men Do” rips out humanity’s heart of darkness and hurls it skyward. The band’s delivery of “Do” at Donington is nothing short of (super)heroic.
“Powerslave” – Live After Death
Ancient Egypt sets the stage for “Powerslave” and, on Live After Death, Iron Maiden turns themselves into gods and the audience into pharaohs. What is the sound inside the head of the Sphinx? You can bet your finest golden scarab beetle it comes very close to “Powerslave.”
“Killers” – Maiden Japan
Few albums have made good on the promise of their title with the same fervor of Iron Maiden’s Killers. For here was a band that fit that description in terms of expressiveness and prowess, and at hand was a collection of songs that also, to this day, absolutely kill. The spin on the title track from Maiden Japan keeps that consistency going: it’s so awesome, it may well be lethal.
“Can I Play With Madness?” – Death on the Road
When Iron Maiden asks Death on the Road’s German crowd, “Can I Play With Madness?,” the answer is affirmative—in fact, madly so. The performance of this 1988 rip-roarer then fittingly follows suit.
“Prowler” – Live!! + One
“Prowler,” from the expanded 1984 Greek release of Live + One, brings the voyeur ode’s pervy splendor to throbbingly sanguine life. It will, very much, get you feeling yourself and reeling around
“Revelations” – Live After Death
A concert favorite from its debut, “Revelations” transplants the Live After Death crowd to myths and parables that seem to be, at once, ancient and from the future. During every moment that the song is rocking, though, it utterly owns your present—so you might even call that a gift.
“Wasted Years” – Flight 666
Arena Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico “Wasted Years”, from Somewhere in Time (1986), is arguably Iron Maiden’s most personal song. They lyrics eschew battlefield marauders, otherworldly monsters, and mythological adventurers for a heartfelt, even heartbreaking summation of stress, strain, and the need for proper perspective that comes from being in a reality-redefining superstar rock band.
What makes the Flight 666 take on “Wasted Years” so profoundly moving then is that, more than two decades later, the group was still at it, and their gratitude for that—and for us, the fans—rings through on every note.
“Running Free” – BBC Archives
Paul Di’Anno leads the up-and-coming (and how!) Iron Maiden through an absolute boot-stomper of a radio broadcast on BBC Archives. The performance at hand occurred on the Beeb’s metal-history-making Friday Night Rock Show on November 14, 1979. The band comes off especially confident and ready to conquer on “Running Free.”
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – Live After Death
For 13-minutes on Live After Death, Iron Maiden recreates the age-old ballad “Rime of the Ancient” Mariner” and its high-seas saga of a cursed albatross murderer as an overwhelming theatrical extravaganza. No actual visuals are needed: the song paints all the pictures any one mind can handle.
“2 Minutes to Midnight” – Rock in Rio
The frantic, edge-of-Armageddon-poised “2 Minutes to Midnight” hammers its cautionary message home with especially urgent and skull-ringing impact when played before a quarter-million raving Maidenheads. Listen here and learn.
“The Number of the Beast” – Live After Death
The Book of Revelations quote lights the fuse. The opening licks of “The Number of the Beast” hasten the flame toward combustion. When it finally hits—boom!—there it is: the full-blown, all-consuming heavy metal apocalypse, with each member of Iron Maiden serving as his own horseman—and yours.
“Iron Maiden” – En Vivo!
Initially, vocalist Paul Di’Anno spiked Iron Maiden’s punky, self-titled theme song with a brawler’s swagger. In concert throughout the years since, Bruce Dickinson remakes the irresistibly fist-pumping jam over in his grand style. En Vivo!, recorded at Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile provides a stupendous example.
“Run to the Hills” – Live After Death
“Run to the Hills” is a dizzying high point of any Iron Maiden show and that moment comes through loud and clear on Live After Death. As only he can, Bruce Dickinson introduces the individual band members, after which they loosely amble, just for a moment, into “Run” before hitting full gallop. You either charge forward with them or get trampled by the melee.
“The Trooper” – Flight 666
Recorded at on February 16, 2008.
For decades, “Run to the Hills” reigned as Iron Maiden’s best-known, most immediate go-to signature anthem. In more recent times, though, “The Trooper” seems to have surpassed “Run” as Maiden’s “Stairway to Heaven,” so to speak. For evidence, pick up the soundtrack to the kickass 2009 Maiden documentary Flight 666, and just listen “The Trooper” light up fans at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo, Japan.
“Fear of the Dark” – Rock in Rio
“Fear of the Dark,” the title track from Iron Maiden 1992 classic, served as the lead single from the 1993 concert album A Real Live One. That version wails, of course, but check out the song’s intensified vitality when the band performs it for 250,000 raging headbangers on Rock in Rio.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” – Beast Over Hammersmith
The sprawling, upward-climbing, mesmerizingly intense “Hallowed Be They Name” first appeared on The Number of the Beast (1982) and was released as a live single eleven years later from A Real Dead One.
Maiden has performed the epic saga of a prisoner facing the gallows in virtually all its set lists through the years, and it appears on many of their concert releases.
Our pick for the best of these performances to hit tape is from March 20, 1982, as it appears on Beast Over Hammersmith (2002). As the show took place two days before the release of Number, Maiden plays “Hallowed” for an audience that had literally never heard anything like it before.
The combined impact of the band unveiling a masterwork and the awestruck audience discovering is absolutely palpable in every second of the song’s running time.
“Churchill’s Speech”/”Aces High” – Live After Death
Iron Maiden’s all-time most towering live track opens with an unparalleled call to arms from guest vocalist Winston Churchill.
Prime Minister Churchill’s 1940 address to the House of Commons has been inundated in the DNA of Iron Maiden fans ever since Live After Death hit. It intros the skyrocketing, dogfighting “Aces High,” an anthem inspired by a 1976 WWII film of the same name.
“Churchill’s Speech” and “Aces High” simultaneously, then, launch Iron Maiden into the highest realm of all-time great live album acts. It’s a stature from which the group has proven time and again that they will, indeed, never surrender.