As AC/DC had bought their own stage to Donington, the official main stage headline slot is left to Them Crooked Vultures. A supergroup consisting of Nirvana and Foo Fighters legend Dave Grohl, Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age and John Paul Jones of the mighty Led Zeppelin is highly unlikely to be anything but … erm … well super really, and these gods of rock certainly don’t disappoint. It feels like a privilege to watch all three of these men play on stage together with a set that builds and builds to an incredible climax. The tracks taken from the band’s debut self-titled album are instant classics that manage to incorporate the magic from all of the member’s main projects. Alain Johannes has the daunting task of being the band’s guitarist for live shows but with an impressive CV that includes working with Queens Of The Stone Age, Chris Cornell and Spinerette, he has no problem entertaining the masses with an incredible guitar solo whilst the other three take a break. Despite being four years over the free bus pass age, John Paul Jones proves that he can still rock the keyboard as well as the bass, and unsurprisingly seems right at home playing to a huge crowd that spans generations.
For their fourth performance at Donington, it’s clear to see why Aussie rockers AC/DC brought their own stage. With their very own steam train and a huge walk way the band are ready to finish up the Friday of Download in style. After a short video of a speeding train (and lots of girls) the band launch straight into ‘Runaway Train’ and then the massive ‘Back In Black’. The band fire out all of the fan favourites to a crowd of varying ages – and breast sizes as made clear on the big screen during ‘The Jack’. As the show continues it becomes all about Angus as the band’s co-founder struts up and down the walkway and launches into a strip tease, removing his trademark school uniform to reveal some AC/DC boxers. Although it feels so very, very wrong watching a 55 year old strip, it’s hard to look away, even if it does almost kick-start the gag reflex. But it’s clear that the crowd love him as his guitar solo is cheered on for a slightly overdone 20 minutes during which he emerges from the crowd on a raised platform and is showered in confetti. After more hits including ‘Thunderstruck’ and ‘T.N.T’ plus another video of tanks, boats, planes and, yep you’ve guessed it, girls, the band welcome Rosie - a giant inflatable woman with breasts big enough to make Katie Price jealous – on stage for ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’. An incredible encore of ‘Highway To Hell’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’ that continues to get every single member of the crowd clapping and singing is rounded off with cannons and fireworks proving just why AC/DC are one the biggest selling bands in the world.
Canadian metalcore band Cancer Bats bring energy by the bucket load to the second stage on Saturday afternoon. Their raw power pleases the crowd but it’s clear that many of them are only there to hear their fierce cover of Beastie Boys hit ‘Sabotage’. Let’s hope this doesn’t become their downfall.
The six lads from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales have become seven for their return to Download this year. Joined by Phillip Jenkins from fellow Welsh band Kids In Glass Houses, the band now has two drummers as well as two lead singers, and this only serves to make them stronger than ever. Tracks from their latest album Best In Town are definite crowd pleasers, with mass sing-a-longs to ‘The Consequence’, but it’s the material from debut release We Are The Dynamite that really bring their set to life. Experts at entertaining a crowd, Sean Smith and Gavin Butler provide plenty of banter and bounce around the stage performing provocative acts with microphones. With giant inflatable hands with middle finger raised on stage, mass swearing from the crowd and a snippet of ‘Killing In The Name’, The Blackout serve as the perfect warm up to tonight’s headliners Rage Against The Machine.
The sheer popularity of Rage Against The Machine is proved when only minutes into their set they are forced to stop be security due to crushing at the barrier. But once lead man Zack De La Rocha has made sure everyone is safe, the band continue with a truly incredible show. Not many bands perform shows at which the crowd sing along to the instrumental intros of their songs but tonight’s massive crowd do just that when Rage launch into ‘Bombtrack’ and ‘Bulls On Parade’. Guitar magician Tom Morello’s performance is as mind blowing as ever and Zack is also on form with his usual political speeches and a big thank you for their Christmas number one success. The set feels a little disjointed at times but it all ties together with the mighty ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’, and an encore of the classic ‘Killing In The Name’ brings the evening to an explosive end.
It’s rare to hear of an American band trying to make it in the UK, but Switchfoot are trying to do just that. The rockers have been around since 1996 but only achieved success in their home country after appearing on the soundtrack of cheesy tear jerker A Walk To Remember. Signature track ‘Dare You To Move’ sparks mass swaying, but it’s not just the power ballads that these guys do well. Although the cover of Sabotage is not a patch on the Cancer Bats version, their anthemic rock is impressive and front man Jon Foreman certainly doesn’t lack charisma, choosing to spend most of the set in the crowd. There could be big things to come for these guys.
A slightly odd choice to follow Switchfoot, grindcore gods Napalm Death crank things up with a furious whirlwind of guitars and death growls. After 30 years in the business, these Brummies, who hold the Guinness World Record for the shortest song, are showing no sign of slowing down.
Mix a tablespoon of Fall Out Boy, a dash of Anthrax and a sprinkling of Every Time I Die and simmer for a few months. What do you get? Why, the latest super group to emerge from the US, The Damned Things of course! These guys manage to combine elements of all three of their original bands to create some classic heavy rock. If their Download performance is anything to go by, their debut album set to be released later this year has the potential to be huge.
Mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan bring the rain and the madness to Donington. Their brutal precision playing kicks starts an epic mosh pit and the guys from New Jersey treat the stage like one big climbing frame. A truly ferocious live performance.