When Iron Maiden first announced back in 2011 that they'd be revisiting their golden period for a blockbuster of a world tour, few could have predicted that they'd still be spoiling us with it three years on.
Sonisphere 2014: Iron Maiden
Venue: Sonisphere Festival
Heavy metal's greatest band wrap up Maiden England in style
But, as the final notes of Doctor Doctor fade away and those iconic opening moments of Moonchild kick in, it's hard to find a single soul on Knebworth's turf that'd complain. Heavy metal's greatest band are on typically boisterous form tonight as a flurry of pyro signifies the start of what will likely be the very last time we see some of these songs aired live, with Bruce Dickinson bounding around the stage with the gusto of a man half his age and the rest of the band spinning, jumping, machine-gunning and thumping away like they're playing these timeless anthems for the first time.
"Ullo, Knebworth!" quips Brucey after a breathless Can I Play With Madness, before offering a quick, cheeky reference to "the other place" they've played this set and launching into an awesome rendition of The Prisoner that has a delirious crowd rocking as hard as any and every song busted out this evening. While the staged WWII "dogfight" that took place earlier today was an amusing distraction and a fun way to punctuate the occasion of this tour finally coming to an end, this is all about the songs, and what songs they are. Whether this is your first time seeing the Maiden England tour or your seventh, there's just no fucking with the likes of 2 Minutes To Midnight, Wasted Years, The Number Of The Beast and a returning and voraciously received Revelations, all performed with a heroic gusto and peppered with fire, pyro and the biggest selection of Eddies any Maiden tour has bore witness to (our favourite is still the Clairvoyant Eddie, who still makes an appearance despite the song itself being absent tonight).
With only one hiccup occurring thanks to a small pyro failure during Phantom Of The Opera (Bruce opts to abandon calling upon individual bursts of flame and instead decides to "burn the whole fucking place down"), the set is, of course, flawlessly executed and gleefully eaten up by the Knebworth faithful. The final song of the night, Sanctuary, is briefly interrupted by a heartfelt thanks to the crew that have lugged this imposing set around countless countries over three years and a promise that there is something "very special" to come for Maiden fans over the coming years (new album, please!), before a final bow from Bruce and the boys bring to a close another incredible chapter of this legendary band's career. If you missed this tour, then you did indeed miss something truly special, but given the level of scope and spectacle this band has as their calling card, chances are they'll have something equally spectacular up their sleeve soon enough. They can't come back soon enough.
Can I Play with Madness
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Fear of the Dark
The Evil That Men Do