Battered, muddy, tired and weary, but the Download faithful are still up and about for the final day early. And guess what? Despite not being forecast until the evening, the rain starts before the bands. Joy of joys. That said, there’s a little group on the Dogtooth stage called The Franklys (7) who play to a growing audience and help us forget that it’s already grizzly outside and get a very warm reception as well. There’s certainly potential with them…watch this space. Monster Truck (7) give a very good account of themselves on the Lemmy Stage and prove exactly why they’re supporting Nickelback on tour in October, whilst Amon Amarth (8) are now reaching the heady heights of the Roundhouse and showcase their intentions to bring everything they can with smoke-breathing dragons and a lot of fire to boot. Incredibly, Halestorm (8) go one better, playing to a huge crowd and asking questions as to why they’re not playing bigger venues themselves. In addition, just how good is Lzzy Hale as a frontwoman, eh? Big presence, huge voice, complete rockstar attitude. It’s something Shinedown (7) have no chance of competing with, but they still hold their ground impressively, Unity being the big highlight of their set. There is a noticeable size change in the audience as well; a lot of people appearing to take the pilgrimage up the hill to see the UK festival debut of Breaking Benjamin.
Along with an immense talent, Buck & Evans are blessed with a great sense of dry humour “We’ve brought the sun with us from South Wales,” declared Buck & Evans singer Sally Ann Evans, as she introduced their aptly named song ‘Sinking’. The rain did not dampen spirits as Buck & Evans woke the assembled Downloaders from their Sunday morning slumber, with songs such as ‘Slow Train’ and ‘Ain’t No Moonlight’. Sally-Ann’s soulful voice cascaded out over the umbrellas and rain macs to Red Camp in the far distance, as guitarist Chris Buck called those still in asleep, out from their tents with his blinding guitar solos.
After Buck & Evans, Whiskey Myers (9) carried on the fairly laid back start to the day with their country infused southern rock. If you’re a fan of band like Lynyrd Skynyrd or all an brothers then Whiskey Myers should be right up your street. I really enjoyed their set, and it served as a perfect bridge between the softer music if Buck & Evans, and the louder heavier music of Grand Magus who came next.
Grand Magus (8) told the crowd they’d brought the Viking weather with them from Sweden and apologised for the fact that means rain. These three swedes never disappoint and always deliver a good solid performance.
Dutch symphonic metal band Delain (9) drew a large crowd. With their new guitarist Merel Bechtold now part of the band then that extra guitar gives them more punch in a live setting, and this balances nicely against Martijn’s keyboards and Charlottes lovely rich vocals. Delain have been going from strength to strength in recent years and have toured hard and this shows in how polished their performance is. It’s a great set, and their song dedicated to Sophie Lancaster (We are the others) goes down a storm as it always does in the uk. A great set.
Periphery (7) were impressive on second stage – not a band I’ve really listened to much before, but they sounded great. That’s one of the bits I love about festivals – you go based on the bands you want to see but while you’re there you inevitably come across other bands you haven’t heard before and often find some great bands to listen to in the future.
Three and a half years ago they were supporting a dire band at the legendary 100 Club, today The Temperance Movement (TTM) are in their absolute element, showing Downloaders that is doesn’t all have to be about loud heavy guitars and bass lines to rock the Lemmy Stage. There are clearly some hardcore TTM fans in the audience lapping up every minute of their groove ridden bluesy rock on songs including ‘Midnight Black’, ‘Pride’ and ‘Modern Massacre’. Making full use of the stage Phil Campbell seems to have truly found his musical nirvana. The fantastic solos from guitarist Paul Sayer win over any Donnington doubters and they leave the stage with the crowd shouting for “one more song”.
When Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale hollers “Can I get an amen?” as you stand ankle deep in mud on a Sunday, you know you are at your church, music is your religion and she is your preacher. Halestorm have grown steadily to this point and it is fantastic to hear them fill tens of thousands of pairs of ears with their own style of hymns, including of course from their latest album, the hits ‘Amen’, ‘Apocalyptic’ and ‘I Am The Fire’. If you weren’t already by the end of their set, you are more than likely converted to their ballsy, belting, brand of hard rock.
Don Broco (8) have to be one of the bounciest bands on the bill – they never stop leaping into the air. These guys have way too much energy, and I was exhausted just watching them, but they certainly know how to put on a show at a festival and their high energy set really is what is needed in the miserable wet weather to help keep the crowd’s enthusiasm and energy levels up. They went down well with the large crowd and I did enjoy what I saw of their set.
I spent all weekend looking forward to seeing my fellow Canadians Billy Talent again. I was a little surprised to see Jordan Hastings behind the drum kit (Alexisonfire); a few songs in Frontman Benjamin Kowalewicz explained that drummer Aaron Solowoniuk had unfortunately had a relapse with his MS but would kick it’s ass and be back soon. After a supportive roar from the crowd Billy Talent played a blistering set of old favourites and a taste of what is to come from their soon to be released album ‘Afraid of Heights’. A highlight of the festival for me that ‘almost’ made me forget the rain and mud!
As the clock ticks round to 5pm, Download quite literally sees ten thousand fists in the air; Disturbed (8) are back. It’s a rather odd set of two halves: a reputation for merely going through the motions in a live setting, David Draiman doesn’t seem particularly bothered with putting any emotion into his persona and everything is fairly ploddy, despite the likes of The Game and The Vengeful One. But then, they bring out their cover of Sound of Silence and immediately everything picks up. One of the moments of the weekend, it’s as haunting as it is powerful and Draiman simply dominates it. From here on in Disturbed are on excellent form, bring out Lzzy Hale, Blaze Bayley and Benjamin Murray for a medley of U2, The Who and Rage Against the Machine covers respectively. Then they close with Down With the Sickness and everyone goes mental. Utterly bonkers. So how do you top that? Well, a load of fire and sparks isn’t a bad place to start. Playing only one song that pre-dates 2004’s Once, Nightwish (9) justify their position on the bill with all the pomp and circumstance that we’ve grown to love from them. Enjoying every moment, their smiles are infectious to the nth degree and Floor Jansen is growing into one of the most dominant frontwomen in metal today. Her voice carries beautifully across Download and despite another heavy shower during their set, they hammer into place their position as arena headliners across the U.K.
Second stage headliners Janes Addiction (9) are a band I’ve never managed to see live before so I was really looking forward to their set. One thing was clear from the start – they were out to put on a show for the fans. The stage was set up with raised walkways, strange frameworks, lights and more, and as the set kicked off dancers came out and climbed on the frameworks, danced on the walkways, and did their best to entertain while Dave Navarro, Perry Farrell, Stephen Perkins and Chris Chaney played. Perry Farrell is an eccentric looking figure on stage in his shiny suit and straw hat as he strolls around and sings.
Later in the set they bring out aerial dancers – unusual and impressive at a festival but made even more so by the fact that they appear not to be wearing harnesses but instead have hooks through their skin to attach them to the wires. It looks painful but impressive.
It’s a great set, and it’s a shame that they can’t play longer but for reasons unknown the organisers have decided that no other bands will play while Iron Maiden is on, so Janes Addiction close the second stage early – around 8.30 on Sunday night.
And then, as it has done on so many occasions before, UFO’s Doctor Doctor plays out across Donington Park. It’s been a long time coming given everything that they’ve gone through, but to hear that song through the PA is a truly breathtaking and spine-tingling moment. What follows is two hours of brilliance. They’ve got their critics, but when Iron Maiden (9) are on this kind of form, they’re virtually unstoppable. Tight as a drum and benefitting from excellent sound, the fact that the six men on stage have a collective age of nearly 300 is astonishing when you consider the energy emitted from them over the course of the set. From the new material of Speed of Light and a moving Tears of a Clown to a thumping Powerslave and the majesty of Hallowed Be Thy Name, it’s a triumph like no other. An emotionally-charged Blood Brothers, dedicated to the victims of the tragic shootings in Orlando, is the anchor of an encore that also includes The Number of the Beast and is rounded off with Wasted Years that sees Bruce Dickinson constantly move Adrian Smith’s microphone so he can’t sing backing vocals on his own song. It’s little moments like that which show that Maiden are still loving touring, having fun and why they’ve dominated the live metal scene for the past sixteen years. Confirmation of a UK arena tour next year is also very warmly received. Download might have been a damp squib, but Iron Maiden have closed it in emphatic fashion yet again.
Iron Maiden setlist
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Tears of a Clown
The Red and the Black
Death or Glory
The Book of Souls
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life