Download Festival @ Donington Park – 11th – 13th June 2010
Continuing the 30 year legacy of the legendary Monsters Of Rock festival at hard rock’s spiritual home of Donington, Download unleashed another historic line up for lovers of all things heavy. ANDREW TRENDELL went down to Donington where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…
Festivals can be a mixed bag. In England they’ve become synonymous with lairy laddish culture, crazy hats and outfits and the moronic screaming of pointless catchphrases across camp sites. Don’t get me wrong, these are all things we love and that are intrinsic to the British festival experience, but what we need to remember is that we’re all really here for one thing and one thing only: the music. Download Festival is the only real British festival that cuts out all of the crap of the fighting and the fashionista scene parade and gets back to basics. These people came here to rock.
The festival was first brought to its knees by Them Crooked Vultures on the sun-drenched main stage on Friday. Consisting of Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and that Dave Grohl fella’ from Nirvana/Foo Fighters, they were welcomed by their rock-loving public as royalty. Veterans they may be, but as a unit they have just one album to their name, which holds one very problematic issue: how do they fill a 75 minute main stage slot? Simple, they do what any other band of legendary virtuosos would do – they jam…a lot. Their mind bending hard rock meanderings culminated in an extended nine-minute version of ‘Scumbag Blues’ and a refreshing piano led instrumental from Jones. Guitar masturbation aside, Vultures delivered an intense and powerful set, befitting of their status. Tracks such as ‘Gunman’, ‘Elephants’ and ‘Mind Eraser No Chaser’ taught Download a master class in textbook riff-fuelled brilliance.
But that was nothing in comparison to the biblically brilliant feast of iconic rock gems that followed, when AC/DC pulled out all of the stops, then strapped a pair of inflatable breasts on them and fired them out of a cannon. AC/DC have never been a band to do things by halves, and tonight to commemorate 30 years of Monsters Of Rock at Donington they have brought their own stage which dwarves and dominates the rest of the festival. Complete with two giant horned flashing baseball caps, a train wreck, and a strut into the crowd, AC/DC brought a religious sense of grandeur to the proceedings. Opening with the pile-driving ‘Rock N’ Roll Train,’ singer Brian Johnson promised the hordes of Download an epic night of hedonism: “We’re here for one reason and that’s to rock and roll, and the party starts right now.”
For those ornithologists out there who came to the Derbyshire countryside to spot a few tits, you certainly picked the right band. “If you’ve got ‘em girls, then get them out,” shrieked frontman Brian Johnson before launching into ‘The Jack’, inviting what can only be described as a ‘breast-fest’ as the festivals camera man hunted for flesh to project on the big screens. ‘Back In Black’ received a rapturous response as a hymn to all things metal and ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dead Cheap’ brought a welcome dose of hellfire and brimstone. The legendary guitarist Angus Young began the set in his trademark schoolboy uniform before gradually stripping down to a pair of enviable AC/DC boxer shorts as he strutted and duckwalked the stage. To add to the spectacular sense of occasion Johnson swung from a giant bell which was lowered down from the top of the stage during ‘Hell’s Bells’ and the evening climaxed in fireworks, cannon fire and an orgasmic extended guitar solo during the encore of ‘Highway To Hell’ and ‘For Those About To Rock.’ They did Donington proud with no sign of growing old gracefully. AC/DC – we salute you.
Saturday saw glorious sunshine and began with a rabble-rousing set from schiz-metal outfit Rolo Tomassi and some fiery thrash-punk from Cancer Bats on the second stage, but it wasn’t long before yet more legends took to the main stage, when Megadeath appeared in the late afternoon. Celebrating the anniversary of their legendary 1990 album ‘Rust In Peace’ the band played a solid set of hair-metal classics from across their 30 year career.
Next up were Deftones – who owned the stage with their awesome and undeniably inimitable brand of whurlwitzing noise-metal. Only Deftones could draw such a devoted and strong crowd during the distraction of the first England match of the World Cup. Opening with the sinister ‘Rocket Skates’ from recent album ‘Diamond Eyes,’ Chino Moreno and the boys from Sacremento set Donington alight as they screamed and bound around the stage. The best response was saved for tracks from their from their celebrated 2000 album ‘White Pony’ such as the rumbling ‘Fieticiera’ and the explosive and aptly named ‘Elite.’ As circle pits swirled around the crowd, Deftones proved to be on fine form as they effortlessly executed carnage with nu-metal anthem ‘Be Quiet And Drive’ and invited an almighty unearthly chorus of “shove it, shove it, shove it,” during ‘My Own Summer.’ Although bassist Chi Cheng is still hospitalised in a coma, nothing stopped Deftones from destroying their masses of loyal followers.
You could cut the atmosphere with a knife as the iconic red on black star was lowered to the stage for Rage Against The Machine. You could taste the anticipation on the cool summer night breeze as Rage exploded onto the stage with a searing rendition of ‘Testify’, causing yet more circle pits to erupt in a sea of clenched pumping fists. So intense was the crowd’s surge that the band had to pause during ‘People Of The Sun’ to calm the crush. Before screaming “rewind,” singer Zach De La Rocha before kicking the track off again from the beginning. Introducing ‘Know Your Enemy’ De La Rocha launched into a tirade against “pop bullshit” and lambasting everything that Simon Cowell stands for, referring to their success in achieving the Christmas number one spot over X Factor’s Joe McElderry, met by screams and applauds of approval. During ‘Township Rebellion’ from their iconic self-titled debut album, De La Rocha also attacked the deplorable behaviour of the nations of Israel and America, again met by the politicised pumping of fists, before kicking into a glorious, hard-edged cover of The Clash’s White Riot.
Their set continued as a perpetual demonstration of awesome vitriolic splendour, as they jumped from ‘Bullet In Your Head’ and ‘Calm Like A Bomb’ to the funk fuelled ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’ and protest anthem ‘Guerilla Radio.’ The set ended with a gloriously acerbic sing-a-long of ‘Killing In The Name Of.’ It’s a testament to their greatness that Rage can return after all these years and play not just one of the greatest performance of the weekend, but perhaps of their entire careers.
On the seventh day, God created hedonistic, ballsy, horned metal, as Sunday saw an onslaught of leather-clad legends strut the Download stage. The first of these legends was the one and only Slash. As the sun beat down on Donington, Slash, joined by guest vocalist Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge, treated the hard-rock faithful to tracks from his solo album, as well as a few classics from the catalogues of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver. With legends by the bowlful, Slash welcomed Lemmy to the stage. Introduced by Slash as “a really good friend of mine”, the Motörhead frontman walked on to massive cheers from the audience, who soon began chanting his name, before Lemmy and Slash kicked into a rendition of ‘Doctor Alibi.’ The greatest rapture of course was saved for the group’s renditions of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘Paradise City.’ As the sun smiled upon Donington and Slash played solos behind his head, it was clear that the Gods of rock were certainly happy.
Or perhaps not, as soon as the top-hatted guitar hero left the stage, the heavens opened and the fields were flooded as the new romantic peroxide vampire punk Billy Idol came out to perform. “We like rocking,” he said, after introducing his band. “We picked the right religion!” He then performed a good-humoured set of classics including ‘Rebel Yell,’ ‘King Rocker’ and ‘Kings And Queens Of The Underground.’ Battling the adverse weather conditions, Idol remained in high spirits throughout his damp set, climaxing when he bizarrely threw paper plates into the audience before ‘White Wedding.’
The legends continued well into the damp and stormy evening, as Motörhead faced the torrential rain head on, calling upon the audience to “rock out with their cocks out.” In spite of the downpour, the wart-faced legend led his band of speed-metal legends through a fast and furious set, including classic hit ‘Ace Of Spades’ as well as ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Iron Fist’. Meanwhile, Ginger from from filth-rock demi-gods The Wildhearts, played the Jagermeister acoustic stage. A not so intimate affair, he played to a large but drenched audience with what must have been in excess of about 8 acoustic guitarists.
The pinnacle of hard-rock magnificence and the epitome of the old school romantic ideal of rock n’ roll, I give you Aerosmith. Immediately kicking into the glam-rock classic ‘Love In An Elevator,’ the band got straight down to business – rocking hard and doing it well. With his infamously massive mouth agape, frontman Steven Tyler screamed “Britain! Did you miss us?” to a ferociously eager response.
Complete with black hat, sunglasses and a calf-length sequinned coat, Tyler span the crowd into a frenzy as he made a marathon of the stage, twirling his trademark scard-covered mic stand. Letting out an almighty roaring belch, Tyler was ever the showman during the classic ‘Eat The Rich.’ Alongside Tyler was his rock n’ roll brother in arms Joe Perry. An icon in his own right, Perry pulled a double-knecked guitar for a star-gazing and heavenly rendition of ‘Living On The Edge,’ and even took lead vocals for a soulful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Stop Messin Around.’ Then, as if out of nowhere, the band surprised the audience with a mid-set outing of the timeless ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing,’ which saw the audience united, arm in arm with lighters aloft.
Returning for an encore of the ever-infectious ‘Walk This Way’ and the 100mph old school metal attack of ‘Toys In The Attic,’ Aerosmith brought the crowd to an ejaculatory climax and Download to a fitting end with style and aplomb.
Review by Andrew Trendell
Photos: Jessica Gilbert
Tags: 2010, ac/dc, aerosmith, billy idol, cancer bats, Chino Moreno, dave grohl, deftones, donington, download festival, google, guns n' roses, heavy metal, john paul jones, Josh Homme, lemmy, megadeath, monsters of rock, motorhead, paradise city, photos, rage against the machine, review, rock, rolo tomassi, slash, stever tyler, sweet child o mine, them crooked vultures