With the sun tentatively out again Downloaders can rejoice at the first dry festival in god knows how many years, no wellies required!
Rock supergroup The Dead Daisies, heavily promoted on Planet Rock over the last few months, are absolutely living up to the hype with their classic rock and roll vibes. Another band to note the recent terror attacks in the UK, vocalist John Corabi calls out “We heard about what’s going on in Manchester… London… it's only gonna get better with love… peace” to a roar of applause from the crowd before busting out ‘Main Line’.
Over on the main stage, Southern rockers The Cadillac Three are making the most of the sunshine with their unmistakable country twang and slide guitar. They are absolutely as redneck as you imagine, it’s awesome. Next up are Gothenburg gods, In Flames with an enormous circle pit and a lot of complaining out their miniature cooler of beer (okay, it really is ridiculously small.) “We are Swedish people and we love beer… and this is what we got… (tiny cool box) we are gonna be great anyway but this is a disgrace! I’m just gonna put it here to remind us of all the suffering and struggle we have to make this shit happen” Anders Friden jokes it’s their “Spinal tap moment”. ‘Take This Life’ is incredible and the arena atmosphere is wild, there’s even a Teletubby in the circle pit going mental.
Next up, Aussie rockers Airbourne are as topless and naughty as ever, but you can see that security are on edge in case Joel ‘deathwish’ O’Keeffe tries any of his mental rig-climbing shit again. On the Encore stage Ministry are going off, with frontman Al Jourgensen yelling “this is a new song… if you think it fucking sucks, throw shit at us. If you like it, go buy the record and our tshirts and shit. I’m a promosexual”. They’ve got a massive crowd in front of them and are giving it everything they’ve got, it’s one of the most storming sets of the weekend.
Despite the fact that the arena is packed for Steel Panther, I can’t see anything different to last time they played Donington. The same misogynistic garbage is being spouted, and yes I know it’s satire but it’s a bit dated now, don’t you think? It’s a shame because they’re obviously talented musicians, but it’s hard to get past all the shit Spinal Tap stuff to see it. As usual they’re pulling loads of girls from the crowd to join them on stage, but it’s clear the TV crew are steering clear of the boob shots, probably due to the fact that these girls are of indeterminate age.
Clutch however are pure rock and roll heroes. After an initial rocky start with the guitars not being right, Neil Fallon quips “we are Clutch… we are professional musicians” before heading into ‘Your Love Is Incarceration’ and the powerfully epic ‘X-Ray Visions’. Having been on the Download vetran list for a few years now, Fallon jokes “I think this is the most gorgeous day I’ve ever experienced here at Download, thanks for arranging that, Mr lighting director”. ‘Sucker for the Witch’ is amazing, and who doesn’t love a band who aren’t afraid to use a cowbell? On the other hand, they didn’t play ‘Electric Worry’…
Onward to Opeth, who honestly look like vampires about to combust in the late sun, they’re musically impressive don’t get me wrong, but much more of a band-of-the-brooding-night, am I right?
Big Four metal gods Slayer are up next, and Kerry King is sporting a blood-splattered axe while frontman Tom Araya let’s us know how tonight is going to go down “We’re all here for the same thing… smiling and getting hit and stuff. Its always nice to see happy people”. KK absolutely shreds like a beast, massive chains swinging from his leather trousers while his braided beard whips back and forth. The crowd is enormous and rafts of extra security have been drafted in to deal with the constant stream of crowd surfers coming over the barrier, including one particularly unfortunate gringo (he was wearing a poncho) who was bleeding profusely from the nose after recklessly going over on his stomach. He looked pretty proud about it to be honest. ‘South of Heaven’ and ‘Reign In Blood’ are obviously incredible, there’s something utterly spellbinding about hearing those metal anthems in real life.
An hour clear of everything else finishing, a cold night has come out of nowhere and underdressed metalheads are huddling together under the darkening sky. O Fortuna ominously blasts out of the huge array of speaker stacks flanked by giant screens offering up the Aerosmith Aero-Vederci logo and images of the bands’ past. As this is their departing tour, the tribute is expected but kind of lacks the oomph of last years’ farewell to Black Sabbath, maybe it’s because Black Sabbath were homegrown heroes, I don’t know. As Steve Tyler takes to the stage dressed in his usual hippy garb of sequins, frills and flouncy scarves, a massive roar goes up from the astonishingly large crowd.
Having seen Instagram posts earlier on from daughter Liv Tyler, of her and Steve riding the stage-side big wheel earlier on, looking out over the site, I wonder what it feels like to be playing these last shows. At nearly seventy years old I can imagine it’s relief and sadness all rolled into one. Throwing around the mic stand (also bedecked in a floaty scarf, obviously) Steve belts out the likes of ‘Young Lust’, ‘Cryin’ and ‘Living on the Edge’ and it’s like you’re right back at the beginning of their career with them. Well… apart from the incredibly shit fire graphics engulfing Tyler on the screens, it looks like they’ve grabbed them from the original Duke Nukem.
The band themselves are so practiced, so pro, that you wouldn’t know they’d aged a day. ‘Love in an Elevator’ powerfully resonates around the arena and Tyler leads on with a frank statement “I remember checking into rehab one time and hearing the abuse in the world people get… especially women… and thats why Janie’s got a gun”.
After a brief Joe Perry solo, alongside what appears to be a video of his holiday snaps… we get the awesome ‘Stop Messin Around’ and ‘Oh Well’ Fleetwood Mac covers as Tyler writhes around on the giant floor logo. We are treated to every bit of Aerosmith history, harmonicas, rattlesnake shakers and of course ‘Sweet Emotion’, though the wind has picked up and Tyler has to requisition a hat from the crowd to keep his hair out of his mouth. It happens to the best of us pal.
‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’ sees everyone in the arena grabbing hold of each other and swaying, while a million phone screens light up the sky. It might not have the prettiness of the 70’s lighters but hey, we’re living in the age of technology. ‘Rag Doll’ includes the use of the most ridiculous and majestic megaphone ever. It is bejewelled with rhinestones inside and out, and Beatles cover ‘Come Together’ is just phenomenal.
‘Dude (looks like a lady’ is hilarious fun with guys prancing around in front of us, but the encore sees a white grand piano brought down onto the gangway for Tyler to play the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Dream On’ after a mention of the recent UK terror attacks “When you dream good dreams… good things can come true… Aerosmith is dreaming with you… Dream On”. Standing atop the piano, the band show us the true meaning of a ‘show’, something few modern bands really do anymore, it’s a picture I’ll never forget.
Saying goodbye with ‘Walk This Way’, ticker tape explosions and blasts from smoke cannons, it’s hard to comprehend that we’ll never get to see them again. That those bands we grew up listening to, our rock history, is becoming just that, a thing of legend. Aero-vederci to one of the greats.