Tuesday 29 January 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Blaze Bayley, “Live in France”

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Live Album / DVD
Date Released: 01/03/2019
Label: Blaze Bayley Recordings


“…twenty storming performances of twenty storming songs by a band and vocalist who deserve every success”


“Live in France” CD//DD//DVD track listing:

Disc One

1. Redeemer
2. Are You Here
3. Futureal
4. The First True Sign
5. Silicon Messiah
6. Dawn of the Dead Son
7. Escape Velocity
8. Fight Back
9. Prayers Of Light
10. Virus

Disc Two

1. Independence
2. Immortal One
3. Human
4. Calling You Home
5. Endure And Survive
6. The Angel And The Gambler
7. Man on the Edge
8. A Thousand Years
9. Infinite Entanglement
10. Dark Energy 256

The Review:

Blaze Bayley puts an emphatic exclamation mark on his superb “Infinite Entanglement” album trilogy with this double live album- also available as a DVD and various combinations of one or both formats available.. The twenty tracks here consist of many of the best of the songs from the IE concept albums, as well as a liberal smattering of Maiden classics and the title track from his own “Silicon Messiah” album.

Anyone who witnessed him on the 2018 tour for “The Redemption of William Black” will know what to expect from the set list. The recording itself finds Blaze and the boys at the peak of their powers. “Redeemer” opens atmospherically to a charged crowd atmosphere. It's straight into “Are You Here” and the band are clearly very tight and well focused by the prior months of touring.

By the time that Blaze-era Maiden classic “Futureal” bursts out of the speakers, you will know that you are in for a tour de force live record. Indeed, with Blaze's backing band consisting of three members of Absolva the sound is energetic and the tempos suitably urgent. This live rendition knocks the “Virtual XI” album version into a neatly cocked hat; it has the energy, enthusiasm and vibe that much of that album lacked.

You can hear the crowd in many parts of the record- Blaze getting them involved and keeping them engaged. This is a lesson in how to work a venue's crowd and how to make a gig of any size seem like a stadium show. Blaze delivers a very clear introduction to “The First True Sign” that is clearly meant to be understood by the French fans and this highlights how much Blaze cares about the fans and the crowds- having seen him live a couple of times over the last few years this absolutely shines through in his stage show; whether he be playing Grimsby, Manchester or more exotic locations. Not for him the London elitism of other artists: he and the band give their all at EVERY show.

If I am being honest, I miss tracks from “The Man Who Would Not Die” not being included, but the addition of “Silicon Messiah” almost makes up for it. It's a great song from a great album that was overlooked on release, due to a certain “classic lineup” reforming and putting a record out at the same time. Timing is everything, but there we are. From there we are lucky enough to hear the epic “Dawn of the Dead Son” and the storming “Escape Velocity” from “Endure and Survive”; as convincing a one-two punch as you will hear. Later in the set, we also get the title track.

Naturally, this record being from the tour in support of “The Redemption of William Black” there are a fair few songs from it: “Fight Back”, “Prayers of Light”, “Immortal One” and the aforementioned tracks all feature and showcase just how stiring that record was- quite an achievement to be firing on all cylinders at the end of a three album cycle. The songs come thick and fast- no let up from the band for several tracks at a time and it's clear that Blaze and cohorts are intent on delivering a strong set list, high on value and low on gimmicks.

At the mid-point, we get a committed rendition of “Virus” from Blaze's Maiden days. Truthfully, I never liked the track much on the “Best of the Beast” compilation, but I appreciate it a lot more in this setting. In the latter part of the album, Blaze professes his appreciation of the crowd and his love of being an independent artist. Truly, this independence suits Blaze as he can do what he wants and follow his muse. Blaze gives some heartfelt thanks and some good humour as well in the introduction to “Independence and then it's back to serious headbanging business.

The latter half of the set is weighted more towards the first record in the “Infinite Entanglement” trilogy and is thus a little more up beat than the first half. This keeps the energy levels up and gives the impression of the band going from strength to strength- no coasting towards encores here! It's a pleasure to hear such tracks as “Human “and “A Thousand Years” (both classics, IMO).

There is also a real curio for fans in the shape of a re-worked version of “The Angel and The Gambler”. The track was much maligned when first released; the endlessly repeating chorus, the parping synth, the hard rock styling... However, I have always quite liked it. Sure, it's over long on “Virtual XI” and synths are an acquired taste, but delivered straight as a grooving hard rock track with audience participation and no synths it WORKS! It's like a step child to AC/DC with Blaze really giving it some vocally. Martin McNee puts in a solid drum solo amidst some serious (dual) guitar pyrotechnics with Luke Appleton of Iced Earth and Absolva joining as a guest.

Now, if you want an unarguable Maiden classic, “Man on the Edge” is here for you. Fast as a shark and twice a deadly this is one of Blaze's and perhaps even Maiden's best. The last three tracks take in “A Thousand Years” (power metal heaven!), the trilogy's title track and “Dark Energy 256”. Blaze's appreciation of the crowd is sincere and made very clear. The in-between song banter pushes some of the song lengths- and is at the start of tracks instead of at the end, so cannot be skipped... but isn't that what a live album is suppose to be?! It is an accurate representation of the shows from this tour and captures the band on ferocious form.

If you ever thought about seeing Blaze but decided against it, get down to the next tour in 2019. You are guaranteed a fully committed performance of many, many classic songs- for a very reasonable price, I might add. There is nothing to not like here: twenty storming performances of twenty storming songs by a band and vocalist who deserve every success. Blaze is out there, fighting the good fight and living his dream. If you buy this album or buy a ticket to a show you help him to keep doing just that and you'll enrich your own life in the process. A fair exchange.


“Live in France” is available HERE

Band info: official || facebook