CINCINNATI — Every time heavy metal icons Iron Maiden hit the road, there's nervous speculation from millions of fans around the world about the future of the band.
All six members of the group are now in their 60s — and they have all been out on the road regularly since the early 1980s.
The show can't go on forever.
If this is the last Iron Maiden tour, though, the band is treating its loyal supporters with a show they will never forget.
The Legacy of the Beast Tour rolled into Riverbend Music Center on Thursday night. The band energetically ripped through a 16-song set list that featured some of its most well-known songs, complimented wonderfully by a dazzling display of props, costumes, fire and monsters.
For almost two hours, most of the 15,000 people in the attendance stood, many singing along with almost every word.
"You know you are getting old when you get a good review from Rolling Stone," lead singer Bruce Dickinson told the crowd. "And you know you are getting old when half the people in the crowd don't know what the fuck Rolling Stone is."
The Legacy of the Beast Tour played to huge audiences across Europe last year and even drew favorable reviews from the music media — which has not always been complimentary to Iron Maiden, or metal bands in general.
That run of the dates wrapped up back-to-back sold out shows at the O2 Arena in London.
The North American portion of the tour kicked off on July 18 in Sunrise, Fla., in front of another jam-packed arena crowd.
The band has dates scheduled through October in the Unites States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
Iron Maiden has a long-standing, well-earned reputation as a band that delivers an incredible live experience.
This show only adds to that heritage.
The Legacy of the Beast has the band's biggest and most over-the-top production since the World Slave Tour (1984-1985).
The show opens with a nearly full-scale model of a World War II era Spitfire hovering over the stage as the band performs Aces High.
In the first of many costume changes, Dickinson takes off his aviator goggles and puts on a white jacket and a fur cap during for Where Eagles Dare.
The set is dominated many other songs from the band's hugely success albums from the 1980s — 2 Minutes to Midnight, The Trooper, Revelations, Flight of Icarus, Fear of the Dark, The Number of the Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name and, of course, Run To The Hills.
The show also includes tunes from almost every other era of the band as well.
Songs that appear on 10 of Maiden's 16 studio albums are included in the set — even ones that were recorded with Blaze Bayley on lead vocals in the 1990s when Dickinson had left the band (Sign of the Cross and The Clansman).
Dickinson's theatrics are the highlight of the show, though.
The 61-year-singer, who recently beat throat cancer, is a blur of activity as he scurries around the stage for more than 100 minutes with almost no extended breaks.
He engages in a sword fight with a giant Eddie, the band's mascot, before shooting the creature.
Dickinson also sends flames high into the air from each arm (with the help of a gas-powered backpack) as an inflatable winged creature glides through the air behind him.
In his trademark fashion, the singer urges on the crowd, repeatedly yelling, "Scream for me, Cincinnati."
All eyes are on Dickinson for most of the show, but Maiden's four guitarists provide a simply incredible musical soundtrack.
They deliver a powerful, almost-studio quality performance of each and every song.
The three lead guitarists — Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, all of whom are 62 years old — work together in amazing synchronicity, trading off solos and playing together at times to create a stunning, crushing wall of ear-blasting metal.
Steve Harris, 63, runs around the stage with the energy of a teenager, pounding away on his bass, singing along with each song and interacting with fans.
Nicko McBrain (67 years old) almost never emerges from his drum kit, but still provides the almost machine-like backbeat for the band.
At an age where most people are ready to retire, the members of Iron Maiden don't seem to be ready to slow down any time soon.
Dickinson sent that message to the crowd on Thursday night.
"Thank you, Cincinnati," he said. "We will be back."
Maybe the show can go on forever.