Iron Maiden has released over a dozen live records, so the first question for any practical fan is, "do I really need another one?" The Book of Souls Tour is perhaps the most significant in the band's history because it was the first singer Bruce Dickinson undertook after completing treatment for throat cancer. Not only did he sing, but, as usual, piloted the band's 747 to 39 countries on six continents in 2016 and 2017. The band performed in front of more than two million people. The set was produced by Tony Newton with assistance from bassist Steve Harris.
More than half of the material here is made up of performances of Book of Souls material with the songs usually appearing in pairs. Uncharacteristically, the two opening tracks on each disc, "If Eternity Should Fail" and "Speed of Light" pale in comparison to their studio counterparts -- the former due to the inclusion of way too much reverb on Dickinson's vocals, the latter because it feels like a sound check run-through as opposed to an actual concert track. "Wrathchild," from Killers, delivers the chugging Maiden magic with its three guitarists -- Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers -- on stun. Likewise, "Death or Glory," from a Polish gig, is raw, stomp-and-swing metal boogie with Dickinson exhorting the ecstatic crowd to "climb like a monkey." The Book of Souls' material gets a reboot with a 13-minute read of "The Red and the Black" that erases the memory of the opening numbers. "Powerslave," which closes disc one, just smokes, thanks in no small part to drummer Nicko McBrain's virtuosity. Disc two commences with another pair of Book of Souls tunes: "The Great Unknown," captured in Newcastle, and a nearly 11-minute version of the title track from Castle Donington. Its thundering, doom-laden vibe is more intense and menacing than its studio counterpart. "Fear of the Dark," from the 1992 album of the same name, is as much a showcase for the audience at Fortaleza as for the band. They are, for better and worse, part and parcel of the song's performance. It's great the first time through, but tiresome upon repeated listens. It's followed by "Iron Maiden" from Buenos Aires, and "Number of the Beast" from Wacken. Neither song can be performed too many times and this album is no exception. These may not have been the most proficient performances of the tour, but they are raw and inspired, and this is also true for new readings of "Blood Brothers" (also from Donington, and worth the price for Dickinson's spoken intro alone), and set-closer "Wasted Years," captured in Rio de Janeiro with its anthemic choruses and swinging drums. Those curious about Dickinson's voice after treatment needn't worry -- he's in excellent form throughout. As captivating as much of The Book of Souls: The Live Chapter is, it is still primarily designed to appeal to the core of the band's most dedicated fans.