Iron Maiden close triumphant Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth

IRON Maiden closed the second Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth Park last night (Sunday) with an epic performance to cap a triumphant weekend of music.

The British heavy metal legends took to the stage in front of 55,000 Irons fans in the stately home’s back garden for their only UK concert of the year.

With a set designed like a space station and playing to a sell-out crowd, the band opened with The Wicker Man and aired tracks mostly from their last three studio albums, Brave New World, Dance of Death and A Matter of Life and Death.

With energetic front man Bruce Dickinson running around the stage like a man half his age, the Irons were pumped up for this ‘homecoming’ gig at the legendary rock venue, with singer Dickinson describing Knebworth as “the new Jerusalem of metal”.

The Londoners gave metalheads a taste of new album The Final Frontier, out on August 16, by playing El Dorado early on in their set.

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Dickinson later dedicated Blood Brothers to the late Ronnie James Dio, the Black Sabbath and Heaven & Hell vocalist who played Sonisphere at Knebworth last summer but died of cancer in May.

Sonisphere’s 2010 Sunday night headliners were joined on the massive Apollo stage by Eddie in alien form for set closer Iron Maiden – with the band’s mascot playing guitar at the climax.

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After playing tracks from the past decade or so, Maiden delved into their impressive back catalogue for an encore of The Number of the Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name and first single Running Free to a rapturous reception.

Earlier in the evening, dance-metallers Pendulum had whipped the Apollo crowd into a frenzy before the main event.

Booked as Iron Maiden’s special guests, the Australians certainly justified their billing if the number of crowd surfers for set closer Watercolour was anything to go by.

With Ben Mount, aka MC Verse, stalking the stage throughout their performance, Pendulum cranked up the atmosphere a few notches with circle pits aplenty for Tarantula.

As well as jets of fire shooting into the sky from the stage, the band were joined by In Flames vocalist Anders Friden for Self vs Self from chart-topping third album Immersion.

Other highlights of an incendiary set included current single Witchcraft and, of course, Propane Nightmares.

Over on Saturn, Pendulum’s performance was followed by the raw power of Iggy and The Stooges.

With Iggy Pop better known these days for selling insurance on TV adverts, the punk rock legend returned to his day job and proved a nightmare for stewards by inviting fans to join him on stage.

Despite his age, Iggy produced a typically dynamic performance, with I Wanna Be Your Dog one of the high points.

Another blast from the past came in the form of hard rockers The Cult, who opened with Lil’ Devil.

Despite a few problems with the sound, guitar hero Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury crashed out the likes of Rain, She Sells Sanctuary and Fire Woman before closing with Wild Flower and Love Removal Machine.

But the day belonged to Iron Maiden.

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