A sold out night at Madison Square Garden always comes with the promise of a standout experience akin to a religious awakening and for the capacity crowd, a Wednesday night was their holy day. Iron Maiden made their return to the United States on March 30, fresh off the energizing South American leg of the their world tour in support of The Book of Souls, and overtook New York City.

An official Trooper party was lined up at one of the surrounding pubs, but finding a bar full of Iron Maiden fans was no trouble with some even playing the Live After Death DVD on nearly a dozen screens with the collection of classics blaring through the speakers. Fans guzzled cans of Trooper ale until the bar had been cleaned out of the band's signature brew, singing along to "Run to the Hills" and the participatory demands of "Running Free" from the legendary live performance.

As the streets began to darken, fans started slipping out of the bars and filing into Madison Square Garden, anxiously awaiting for U.F.O.'s "Doctor Doctor" to begin bleeding from the PA system, signaling Maiden would be taking the stage shortly. The song has been played directly before the start of every Iron Maiden show and never fails to receive a roar from the crowd as they belt out the lyrics with fevered excitement. As the house lights dimmed, an animated video graced the LCD monitors positioned on each side of the stage depicting Ed Force One trapped in a web of vines, stuck on the jungle floor. Forcefully trying to take off, the plane is unable to break free from its entanglement until a low growl emanates from Eddie lying in wait below. The beloved mascot's hand takes hold of Ed Force One and thrusts it into flight.

Enter Bruce Dickinson. Dressed in biege cargo pants and a hooded black sweatshirt, the 'Air Raid Siren' breaks the silence, decrying "Here is the soul of a man" behind a smoking cauldron and The Book of Souls opener "If Eternity Should Fail" is under way. The spotlight beginning ends with a crash when the rest of Maiden come in, running out onstage and up to the fans screaming withs outstretched arms in front of the barrier. They kept with the new material going straight into the album's lone single, "Speed of Light," featuring searing guitar melodies that rival some of Maiden's most heralded moments.

Taking the time to scan and engage the crowd, Dickinson playfully pointed out fans saying, "I know your face, I know your face, I've seen your ugly face before! I've never seen you — you're a f--king stranger! You must be 'Children of the Damned!'" The mournful leads open the 1982 track and the 57-year-old frontman displays his ageless voice, reaching some of the highest notes of the night.

Shifting back to the focus on the new record, Bruce delivers a small tribute Robin Williams before playing "Tears of Clown," which was written in honor of the late comedian. Next up was the Steve Harris-penned "The Red and the Black," representing the most vocally daunting song of the night alongside lush new melodies that prove Maiden remain unwavering and just as vital as ever after four decades. As expected, the crowd emphatically took advantage of the "Woah-oh-ooh-oh-oh!" chants each time the opportunity presented itself.

The iconic Trooper Eddie backdrop was swapped in and, despite the darkness, the sold out crowd took notice and erupted before "The Trooper" began playing. Dickinson, of course, was waiving British flags, dressed in Eddie's battlefield regalia as Harris took front and center onstage with the three guitarists, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers standing on the monitor behind him tearing into a triple harmony on the infamous lead. With the energy of Madison Square Garden at one of the night's apexes, the bellowing laughter that marks the start of "Powerslave" poured in and the crowd remained purely electric.

"Death or Glory" saw another two punch return to The Book of Souls, ripping into the ferocious rhythms as Dickinson once again reached into his upper register, only to maintain the high singing on "The Book of Souls" next. The song has the muscle and fantasy-laden mystique to almost serve as a sequel to "Powerslave" as dueling solos drench the crowd in Murray's holier-than-thou legato, Smith's emotive phrasing and Gers' taking hold of one of the best solos he's written in his 25 plus years in the band. A massive tribal Eddie took the stage, interacting with the band and giving the crowd an extra jolt.

Returning to older material, the haunting bells of "Hallowed Be Thy Name" rang, marking its return to the setlist after being omitted on the previous tour for the first time in Iron Maiden history. The only way to follow this up was to go straight into fan-favorite "Fear of the Dark." Over 20,000 fans engaged in the traditional "whoa-oh-oh" chant following the famous guitar lead. The general admission pit exploded into a sea of jumping fans and it's no wonder Maiden never fail to break this one out.

The initial set closed the same way it always does and the signature lead of "Iron Maiden" ripped open the sky when Murray took the spotlight. A hulking Eddie appeared from behind Nicko McBrain's kit as is customary before Dickinson bid the crowd goodnight "from Eddie and from the boys" pointing all around the arena, screaming "Iron Maiden's gonna get ALL of you!"

"Maiden! Maiden!" chants filled the air where the only lights emanating from cell phones waiting to capture the next moment. Before long, "Woe to you, oh Earth and sea / for the Devil send's the Beast with wrath / because he knows the time is short..." resonated through the PA and Iron Maiden reclaimed the stage, kicking off the encore with "The Number of the Beast." Cross-armed, goat-faced Devils bookended the stage as flames shot into the sky alongside Bruce's famed scream.

The frontman took the time to address the crowd once more, speaking about the unity and family of Iron Maiden and their global fanbase. He went on to note that while the outside world is in disarray, it all disappears at the band's shows where it matters not the color of your skin, gender, religion or anything else and that it has always been that way with Iron Maiden. Pointing out several countries represented by flag-waiving fans at the barrier, he then screamed we are all "Blood Brothers" and the band launched into the Brave New World cut that has grown to be one of the true new-era Maiden classics.

Closing the show was "Wasted Years," ending the night on a lighthearted note heavy on crowd participation and backing vocals from Harris and Smith. Yellow balloons were thrown around in the pit up front, occasionally making their way onstage only to be kicked around more by the band. When the music ended, each member took to the front of the stage, graciously thanking the crowd and tossing picks, drum heads and sticks into the flailing hands of fans.

When exiting Madison Square Garden, roars from the crowd came in waves as they littered the streets with wide-eyed and fully-satiated metalheads. Iron Maiden have been at it for 40 years now, showing no sign of age in the slightest and continuing to demonstrate why they're top live act in heavy metal.

Check out our exclusive photos of Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden in the gallery above!

Iron Maiden March 30, 2016, Setlist - Madison Square Garden:

If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Tears of a Clown
The Red and The Black
The Trooper
Death or Glory
The Book of Souls
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Fear of The Dark
Iron Maiden

The Number of The Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years

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