download 2013 poster final@ The Main Stage, June 15 2013

It was a long time coming but Iron Maiden’s Maiden England tour finally touched down in the UK and from the retro RAF fly-past to the final bars of Running Free fans were treated to a wild celebration of metal, theatre and Castle Donington nostalgia. 

If any British band is synonymous with one of live music’s most famous festival sites then it’s the NWOBHM pioneers turned global icons and where better for Maiden to debut their latest set on home soil?

This spine-tingling tour de force was a dream for any metal head schooled on the mid 80s classic Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son – five of that albums’ eight killer tracks made for a mind-blowing trip down memory lane. But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Bruce Dickinson fumbled patchy versions of Moonchild and Can I Play With Madness – shouting rather than singing his was through Maiden’s opening salvo and proving wholly unconvincing on the latter’s chorus. No backing tapes here then.

But by the time Bruce blasted out The Prisoner those early nerves (and he clearly still gets them) had been shot into the Donington sky.

With their frontman firing, Maiden’s three-pronged axe attack set about their business and Messrs. Murray, Smith and Gers delivered a masterclass in metal axe work. Theirs is a sound unique to the genre and it’s a sound that’s been honed to perfection through the decades.

Fear Of The Dark and Iron Maiden ushered in the encore and both songs showcased a peerless metal unit punching their way through two bona fide anthems that will always find a place in the hearts of Maiden fans everywhere.

Slotting in The Evil That Men Do into the encore, Bruce and co. guaranteed the perfect set for fans of a certain vintage. And for everyone else this was metal how metal’s meant to be: thumping riffs, soaring vocals, overblown imagery and pure escapism.

Simon Rushworth