The Saturday line-up at the 2013 Download Festival was more reminiscent of one of the classic Monsters of Rock shows of the 80s and early-90s and certainly had the potential to be one of the best days of music produced on this fair isle.
Thankfully it lived up to that billing and more with storming sets from old hands in Iron Maiden, Motörhead and UFO and the big guns of today like Alice in Chains and Queens of the Stone Age delivering in spades.
It was a double-edged sword for UFO to open the day’s proceedings. The veteran rockers were a great choice to kick things off with a quickfire set of easily-recognisable hits, ranging from ‘Lights Out’ to ‘Rock Bottom’.
But the 30-minute isn’t enough to do a band with a 40-year back catalogue justice and there’s no room for such classics as ‘Only You Can Rock Me, Rock Me’. However, ‘Doctor, Doctor’ goes down a treat and you know for sure that it won’t be the last time you hear that track today. (****)
YOUNG GUNS find it tough to follow that and on a day where classic bands rule the roost, their brand of melodic hardcore is tough to swallow. A cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Today’ and set closer ‘Bones’ – a real brooding stomper that build to a crescendo – are the highlights (**).
Buckcherry pulled out of the festival at the eleventh hour but thankfully the organisers were able to replace them with someone of equal, if not superior, footing. BLACK STAR RIDERS are a revelation for anyone unfamiliar with the Ricky Warwick/Scott Gorham fronted band that melds the classic Thin Lizzy sound with the former Almighty frontman’s trademark vocals.
Debut album All Hell Breaks Loose is one of the best classic rock releases of the year and they start their set with the title track from that disc. Lizzy classics ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Rosalie’ and ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ are slotted into the set and they really get the crowd moving in the lunchtime rain.
But their own material slots in perfectly alongside those Lizzy cuts, ‘Hey Judas’ and ‘Bound for Glory’ are certain to become live staples for years to come. And to cap things off the band finish with a raucous ‘Boys Are Back In Town’ to the delight of the thousands who turned out. (*****)
Over on the second stage, it’s hard to know what to make of Swedish doom metallers KATATONIA. Despite being 20-year veterans of the game, their stage presence is that of a band just starting out and the seven-song set seems to meld into one long bottomed-out riff session. (*)
There is better news on the third stage though as WALKING PAPERS storm through their second set in as many days. A lot has been made of the presence of former Guns N’ Roses’ bassist Duff McKagan but the band have a lot more to offer than just his rumbling basslines.
Last year’s self-titled debut was the choice album of 2012 and the blues-based backing and thoughtful, mysterious lyrics go down a real treat in the mid-afternoon, especially on tracks such as ‘Already Dead’ and ‘Your Secret’s Safe With Me’ (****)
It was one of the more unlikely comebacks of the noughties but ALICE IN CHAINS continue to go from strength-to-strength, particularly on the back of new album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. Lead singer William DuVall fits into the mix well without ever mimicking predecessor Layne Stayley.
Again, the band’s classic tracks like ‘Them Bones’ and ‘Man in the Box’ fit snuggly alongside choice cuts off the new album, including ‘Hollow’ and ‘Stone’. (***)
The Ronseal Quick Dry and Woodstain of the rock n’ roll world, MOTÖRHEAD continue to thrash out the goods year-in, year-out and Download is no exception.
An opening salvo of ‘I Know How To Die’ and ‘Damage Case’ set the tone, as Lemmy and co. keep things fast and heavy with ‘Over the Top’ and ‘The Chase is Better Than the Catch’ turning things up a notch.
It’s nice to see ‘Going to Brazil’ remain in the set and there’s no better trio of songs to finish on than ‘Killed by Death’, ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Overkill’. The sound keeps getting louder and louder until the decibels crush you into submission.
Throw in an unexpected appearance from Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor and this set was one of the real highlights of the day. (*****)
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE have been around the block a few times now and are festival veterans. And they know exactly the sort of audience they are playing to.
The Download crowd prefer much heavier fare than their counterparts at V or Leeds/Reading, so it’s wise for QOTSA to kick things off with a rollicking ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’, just as the early-evening sunshine breaks through and bathes the main stage in a orange glow.
And Josh Homme and co. rattle through hit after rumbling hit after that. ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire’ and ‘First It Giveth’ being two of the standout cuts.
The biggest cheer of the set is reserved for ‘No One Knows’ – the smash hit of 2002′s ‘Songs For The Deaf’ LP.
Lead single from fourth album ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’, ‘Little Sister’ gets an airing but it is back to SFTD for ‘Go With The Flow’, which rampages on before descending into a feedback-driven ‘A Song For The Dead’.
In an era where top-level rock bands are at a premium, QOTSA proved with this display that they are capable of returning to Download in one of those coveted top three headlining slots. (****)
Saturday headliners IRON MAIDEN are of course topping the bill for the fifth time and they do not fail to disappoint.
Kicking off their set with a flypast from a World War II Spitfire – easily the most exciting start to a rock concert ever – the Irons do not disappoint.
Alternating their touring between the past and the present, tonight’s show focuses on the 1988 Maiden England tour, recently released on DVD and double CD, and marks 25 years since the band headlined the biggest Monsters of Rock festival of them all.
And it is just like being transported back a quarter of a century as Bruce and the boys launch into ‘Moonchild’, followed by ‘Can I Play With Madness’. But Maiden are a tighter, sonically and visually better band than they were 25 years ago and it shows here.
‘The Prisoner’, complete with Patrick McGoohan video package, gets a rare outing and it fits snugly alongside hits such as ‘The Trooper’, ’2 Minutes To Midnight’ and ‘The Number Of The Beast’.
‘Afraid To Shoot Strangers’ is shoehorned into the 80s-heavy set but it is a spine-tingling ‘Phantom of the Opera’ that really gets the juices flowing – riff after pulsating riff rolling its way out across an 80,000-strong sea of hands.
‘Run To The Hills’ gets its customary showing before the underrated trio of ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’, ‘The Clairvoyant’ and ‘Wasted Years’ keep the set moving and show the depth Maiden have in their back catalogue. A bigger and more lavish back-drop meaning Eddie can make several appearances, not just on stage but popping up from under it as the all-seeing eye.
‘Fear of the Dark’ remains one of the highlights of any Maiden set and ‘Iron Maiden’ brings the set to a frenzied conclusion.
The encore begins with ‘Churchill’s Speech’, which brings us into ‘Aces High’, as the three-song stretch becomes a mini-concert of its own.
‘The Evil That Men Do’ proves Maiden have got plenty of energy in their locker, despite all being north of 50 and passing the two-hour mark in the set.
The show ends with Bruce announcing the London O2 Arena shows and a loose and rumbling romp through ‘Running Free’. Maiden are the undoubted kings of Donington and this set shows that it will take a lot to knock them off that throne. (*****)
And with six more-than-stellar sets on the day, this Saturday offering at Download is one of the few that can rival that famous day in ’88.