Iron Maiden at Sonisphere 2014 review

'Maiden well and truly raise the Sonisphere bar'

Photographer: Sara BowreyAnna Hyams on 06 July 2014

At 6pm on a sunny Sonisphere evening, the expectation is to be wall-to-wall with sweaty metal fans thrashing along to something chuggy. Today however, all is halted for the incoming WW1 'Dogfight' hosted and flown in by Iron Maiden frontman/real actual pilot Bruce Dickinson, to commemorate the centenary of The Great War. Careering across the sky in his own Fokker Dr1 Triplane, Bruce and the team (aided by stage-side sound tailgun sound effects) put on an aerial show for the Sonisphere arena, and after the spectacular appearance of a Spitfire over the Download stage at Donington last year, it's a second unusual treat for UK metal fans.

Over to Maiden's main stage performance and the dusk is closing in, the arena is awash with Iron Maiden t-shirts ranging from greying 80's vintage numbers, lovingly kept, to 2014 official Fokkers at Knebworth newbies and the expectant faces of young and old alike. As Nikko takes to the drum kit a mighty roar begins in the crowd, and when Bruce hits the raised gangway for the drop of 'Moonchild' the true spirit of Maiden madness is unleashed. With bursts from the fire canons, the duster-coat clad Dickinson screams "Hello Knebworth" into the mic and proceeds to stride wildly about the stage with his unmistakable vocals soaring across the arena.

Drum led fireworks signal the start of 'Can I Play With Madness' and a VT ripped straight from the 1960's TV show signifies 'The Prisoner' with Bruce yelling his trademark "Scream for me Knebworth" to an empassioned audience. '2 Minutes to Midnight' is screamed at the top of everyone's lungs and Bruce spins across the stage like a whirling dervish, flinging the mic stand recklessly. Calling out "you're a loud and rowdy and thirsty bunch aren't you?" Bruce makes reference to the sale of Iron Maiden Trooper brand beer (who also sponsor The Great War Display Team we saw earlier).

Sweaty and breathing deeply, Bruce laments ''This is the end of 3 years... you are the culmination of it!'' speaking of the fact that the 3 year long Maiden England World Tour of which this is the one hundreth and final show. As the band gear up for the next song, Dickinson tells Sonisphere ''The last time I sang this was in Canterbury Cathederal with Jethro Tull believe it or not... that was a more sedate affair, this will be the full bollocks'' and the band race into 'Revelations'.

With Dickinson donning the signature red uniform jacket and the tattered Union Jack, the Charge of the Light Brigade comes to Sonisphere with a very literal bang, as stage pyro alights and he careens across the stage posing in his famous metal-lunge position and pausing to drape said flag over band members' faces. A large red eyed beast arises for 'Number of the Beast' accompanied by some fiercly hot fire canons, and 'The Phantom of the Opera' sees another backdrop change and a giant manned set of church organ pipes.

'Run to the Hills' has a visit from frontier Eddie brandishing a massive rapier and antagonising the band, whilst 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' sees an enormous Eddie fill the stage behind Bruce, alongside burning pyres and a sea of smoke.

'Fear of the Dark' elicits the usual but incredible response of the crowd karaoke, and Bruce takes to the top of the gangway to play conductor to Sonisphere. Namesake track 'Iron Maiden' is fast and wild with ghostly statues and yet another giant Eddie figure (this time torso only with an exposed spine and writhing figure in hand) grins into the  waning night. The long awaited 'Aces High' is brought in on the back of another VT featuring WW2 footage and Churchill's famous speech, and Dickinson is seen to be sporting a Biggles style leather flight cap.

Closing out with 'The Evil That Men Do' and 'Sanctuary', Bruce teases "This is our last show in England... for a while" and hints at exciting plans for the future. Thanking the road crew, the fans and "The people behind those flying venetian blinds you saw earlier", Maiden let us know that "It's you people who make it real for us" and close in a blaze of glory, having well and truly raised the Sonisphere bar well past the point of any other band this weekend. Is there any way Metallica can measure up?


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