In June 2009, 85,000 people a day from the 12th to the 14th descended upon Donington Park for a line up headlined by Faith No More, Slipknot and Def Leppard. Joining them on the bill were such old reliables as Korn and Whitesnake, aswell as triumphant comeback performances from Limp Bizkit and ZZ Top and blazing sets from the likes of Killswitch Engage, Journey, Motley Crue, The Prodigy and Trivium. It was beyond a shadow of doubt the most diverse and the most succesfully eclectic bill Donington had ever seen. Matching the the brilliance of 2009 was never going to be an easy feat, but in 2010, even amidst never ending criticism and a sea of doubters, Andy Copping pulled it off. 100,000 people enjoyed heaven on earth for 3 days and left with only a lifetimes worth of memories. This is how it was done.
Friday - June 11th
36 Crazyfists  do a splendid job of kicking off the festivities on the main stage (note: Unearth played before them but I was nursing the mother of all hangovers. Burp.) despite sound problems unfortunately rendering their set a bit stale. Still, you can't deny the strength of the songs, and 'Slit Wrist Theory' goes down an absolute treat, the perfect pre-cursor to Killswitch Engage  who, stepping in for Wolfmother who cancelled their entire European tour only a week before the festival, incite the kind of reaction most bands of their genre could only dream of. Opening with a stunning 'Rose Of Sharyn' and ending on a poignant tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio with their fantastic take on 'Holy Diver', it's easy to see why they're among the very few who've survived in metalcore's wake - they're just that fucking good. Them Crooked Vultures  seem to be something of a mixed bag among the kind of crowd that Download attracts, and it's clear many in the audience have chosen to see them on name value alone. There's no covers of previous bands, there's barely any stage banter and their stage set up is so basic it's unreal - to put it simply, they come, they play their songs, they fuck off. And while the songs sound gargantuan if it's your thing (and it most certainly is this writers), it's sadly lost on a large portion of the crowd, and extended jam sessions do nothing to help the situation. It's a damn shame. And so it's over to tonight's headliners. Complete with their very own personal stage, a walkway and enough lights and nifty gadgets to blow even the most casual fan away, AC/DC  close the first day in style. It's hit after hit after hit - 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap', 'Hell's Bells', 'Whole Lotta Rosie', 'Shoot To Thrill', 'You Shook Me All Night Long', 'Back In Black', there's seemingly no end to the plethora of classics this band can pull out of the bag. While their choice to disassociate themselves with Download as much as possible may leave a bitter taste in your mouth at times, it's hard to care when the band in front of you are so phenomenal. And if this is the last chance we'll get to see them on our shores as rumours insist, then it's a small price to pay. AC/DC rocked Donington thrice before, and they follow suit for their fourth visit. And then some.
Saturday - June 12th
Kicking off my day, Lamb Of God  are a delight. There isn't a whole lot you can say about Lamb Of God when it comes to the live setting. They never fail to deliver and will always end up being one of the highlights of your weekend at festivals, and they don't disappoint this time. Lamb Of God have reached a point in their career where they can fill an hour long festival set entirely with metal tunes that have become bonafide classics of the new generation - you've got 'Laid To Rest', you've got 'Walk With Me In Hell', you've got 'Redneck', you've got 'Ruin', each played to almost terrifying precision and with a power and prescence that has to be felt to be believed. It seems almost ridiculous to suggest that Megadeth  have a tough act to follow now, but it's true, and while they don't match the ferocity of Lamb Of God, Dave Mustaine and co. still put on a solid show filled with classics of thrash and, in all honesty, just all time classics of music. Sadly Megadeth are plagued with sound problems from the off and some of their traditional savage attack gets lost in the wind. But celebrating the 20th anniversary of Rust In Peace, their seminal thrash masterpiece, you can't take away the timelessness of these songs, and the band seem rejuvenated following the release of last years Endgame and Mustaine's subsequent reunion with original bass player Dave Ellefson. Deftones  are one of the most unpredictable live acts in the world. On their day, they are stunning - when it's played right, their atmospheric and effortlessly powerful music is built for the festival stage. Sadly, as is more than often the case, this is not their day, and not even the songs from this years fantastic Diamond Eyes can stop this set sinking like a lead anchor. The songs sound tired, hazy, unexciting - boring in other words. It's a sad sight to see. But it's difficult to give a shit when your headliners for the evening are so unbelivably good. Riding the wave created from gaining last years Christmas No. 1, Rage Against The Machine  arrive to unanimous fanfare, and kicking off with an utterly ridiculous performance of 'Testify', they solidify exactly why they were and are one of the most important bands of the past 20 years. The sound is crystal clear, Zack De La Rocha is like a superhero frontman and Tom Morello proves he is the undisputed riff lord of the weekend. And so we crown Download 2010's champions.
Sunday - June 13th
Saxon  kick off our afternoon with a full album rendition treat of their seminal Wheels Of Steel album. As the only band on this years bill who were at the very first Monsters Of Rock festival in 1980, there is a tangible feel of nostalgia in the air, and Saxon prove to be one of the most reliable bands of their generation. As mentioned previously in my KISS review for their Sonic Boom Over Europe tour (click here), there is only a handful of classic bands who you can still rely on to deliver live. After today, you can surely add Saxon to that list. Cinderella  turn out to be quite the surprise. Their glam metal roots don't seem at all out of place on a bill which centres almost entirely on nostalgia, and their pristine choruses are the very thing Summer exists for. No band stands a chance of beating Slash  today however. Bringing a collection of songs from all four of his bands which have graced Donington over the years, Slash becomes the biggest surpise of the whole weekend. Knocking out classic after classic, from 'Paradise City' to 'Slither' to 'Nightrain' to the inevitable 'Sweet Child O' Mine', his is a set of the most reliable order, and though all eyes are inevitably on the top-hatted bonafide legend before us, all hats must be doffed towards Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy. Serving as Slash's frontman for this tour, Myles not only brings a renewed sense of vigour to these already established classics but his delivery cloaks the songs in an almost unsurpassed level of ingenuity and grace. This is fucking brilliant. And just as Slash steals the day, the heavens open and Donington Park slowly disintegrates into a sea of mud and, well, mud. But that doesn't stop Billy Idol , who still manages to utilise his classic punk rock ethic to get the pulses racing. It's easy to forget just how many party anthems Idol has it has disposal but he brings them out in spades today, kicking off with a fabulous Generation X couplet of 'Ready, Steady, Go' and 'Dancing With Myself' and ending with a rousing 'Rebel Yell', complete with a treat of old forgotten Generation X number 'King Rocker', and even a brand new song entitled 'Kings And Queens Of The Underground'. You'd be forgiven for having your spirits dampened a little inbetween Idol and Motorhead , who fare sadly worse in our new terrain than Billy. But still, Motorhead are another act who bring with them decades worth of stone cold classics, and even the inevitable 'Ace Of Spades' and 'Overkill' don't sound tired or dated. Stone Temple Pilots  are a bit of a conundrum here. They are the odd one out on a day full of bands who stand for nostalgia (other than Dommin, who opened the main stage today) and their songs simply do not have the same resonance within today's crowd as any of our previous acts. The fact that Scott Weiland is also smacked off his tits help matters not. 'Interstate Love Song' is still a genuine tune though (see: choon). So in a day filled with unbelievable highs and, er, a few wobbly moments, who better to close out this splendid weekend than Aerosmith ? Despite the decreasing temperature and the mud that is slowly forming around our collective feet, Aerosmith close Download in absolute style. 'Love In An Elevator' leads into 'Back In The Saddle', a fantastic one-two punch giving way to storming takes through 'Cryin'' and a particularly beautiful 'What It Takes'. Steven Tyler is undoubtedly the hero of the day, and Joe Perry is the undisputed King of Cool - the Toxic Twins prove to be an electrifying double act. Nothing can stop this genius setlist. Well, nothing except extended blues jams in the middle of cover songs not particularly familiar among this audience. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Aerosmith do, and while still impressive, the set begins to lose it's momentum right about here. Even 'I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' doesn't save it. It's quite a disappointment, but luckily Aerosmith pull it back for a brilliant encore of 'Dream On', 'Walk This Way' and 'Toys In The Attic'. Bish, bash, and of course, bosh. And with that, we make our way back to the campsite for a much needed change of clothes and alcoholic replenishment (again, burp.)
And so Download's over for another year. It wasn't without it's flaws, but the performances seen this weekend are the stuff of legend. A big thank you to head honcho Mr. Andy Copping for putting together a stellar bill. Roll on 2011.