Review by Claire Frays
And onward to the final day of Download Festival – and boy was it an absolute corker! With main stage dominated by Rock, second and third stage offering big doses of the heavy, heavy stuff as well as everything in-between across all of the stages, Donington 2014 went out with a massive bang.
With the Sunday Main stage running order tickling our fancy, we commenced with Buckcherry who attempted to rouse the Download crowd with their Hard Rock anthems. The LA rockers blasted through their 35 minute set, as frontman Josh Todd completely commanded the stage with quite the strut with the likes of ‘Sorry’, ‘All Night Long’ and the obligatory massive ‘Crazy Bitch’ ensuring that the afternoon was kicked off in style.
And then came the turn of former Bon Jovi man Richie Sambora (accompanied by Orianthi on guitars) who received a somewhat mixed response, – especially on his lesser known solo material – but Bon Jovi classics ‘Wanted (Dead Or Alive)’ and ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ scored well with the Download crowd. They were followed by the extremely talented virtuoso Joe Bonamassa who showed us some seriously impressive guitar licks. With Bonamassa being more the type you stand in awe and simply watch, the performance perhaps lacked the charisma and crowd participation of other acts on the Download bill with the crowd response and vibe seeming quite underwhelming. That’s not to say the performance was bad by any means – Bonamassa and his band were as note perfect as ever, and no doubt won over a boat load of fans who had witnessed him for the very first time.
The ante and vibe was upped significantly by the time Volbeat graced the arena with their presence and the bands uplifting, happy-go-lucky rockabilly anthems really bringing the fun element to Donington. Making their main stage debut, the band looked absolutely delighted to be there with Rob Caggiano and frontman Michael Paulsen smiling throughout the entire set. The highlights were a plenty as the likes of ‘Lola Montez’ and the riff-tastic ‘Dead But Rising’ boomed across the arena. Old school Volbeat songs ‘ Sad Mans Tongue’ and ‘Radio Girl’ featured too, as well as an awesome performance of ‘Pool Of Booze, Booze, Booza’ Volbeat saved the best until last finishing in style, with fan-favourite ‘Still Counting’ scoring loud cheers, one epic sing-a-long and a super-massive clap-a-long, plus circle pit. It was followed with ‘The Mirror and The Ripper’ ending proceedings on a real high note. Volbeat are most certainly a contender for future Download headliner if they can emulate their Mainland European hype on our shores. Watch this space!
And then it was the turn of Steel Panther. Introduced by festival promoter Andy Copping as the next best thing to Van Halen, Michael Starr, Satchel, Stix and Lexxi Foxx took the main stage by storm. They began with the dynamic duo of ‘Pussywhipped’ and ‘Party Like Tomorrow Is The End of the World’ from their most recent album release All You Can Eat. The old faithful, classic Panther tracks ‘Asian Hooker’, ‘Girl From Oklahoma’, and ‘Community Property’, which saw all four band members temporarily take a stab at lead guitar duties, all sounded as hilarious as they did the first time you heard them. And of course as it always does, the wit and sarcastic humour in the band’s in-between song banter provided great amusement and entertainment throughout the set. They closed with the mighty ‘Death To All But Metal’ (sadly no Corey Taylor this year!), as the rise of “the panther” continues…
Continuing on the main stage, Alter Bridge followed with their 5th appearance at Download festival and the highest position they have played to date, occupying the sub-headliner slot. With their popularity continuing to rise after a second successful UK arena run, the band have once again proved themselves in the live arena and worthy enough to be a future headliner of the festival. They opened with the rapid, Hard Rock banger, ‘Addicted To Pain’, before launching into ‘White Knuckles’. The big highlights were, as ever, the bands more lengthy repertoire where their sheer talent shines in all its glory. From last years Fortress, the utterly incredible ‘Cry of Achilles’ was the definition of perfection, whilst old hat, ‘Blackbird’ was completely spellbinding from start to end. A surprise inclusion and big highlight was the inclusion of an acoustic version of ‘Watch Over You’ which saw Myles Kennedy take to the stage alone delivering a highly emotional and expressive performance. They closed with the obligatory ‘Rise Today’ and even though Myles went a little wrong, their set still ended on big high. The only qualms? That the set had to finish! Surely, if there is any justice in the world the next time Alter Bridge return to the hallowed Donington grounds they will be in the headliner slot.
They say that things come in threes, and that perfectly describes Trivium’s rollercoaster of a ride of all sorts build up to Download – the unexpected departure of drummer Nick Augusto, the arrival of drum tech Mat Madiro as replacement and, Matt Heafy’s vocal crisis which in turn led to the modification of the bands planned 05 set list. Defiantly, the band took to the stage and somehow against the odds, managed to deliver a set and a half. Opening with the intense ‘Brave This Storm’, Trivium rose above adversity to open their set with conviction. They pressed on with ‘Built To Fall’ with a set list engineered towards the bands less scream-y but nonetheless killer songs.
The band fulfilled on their ’05 set promise with the usual Ascendancy classics; ‘Like Light To The Flies’, ‘Dying In Your Arms’, and the killer ‘A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation’. An intense rendition of ‘Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr’ saw CO2 cannons firing, en-masse crowd jumping and circle pits ruling the night. Tracks from 2013’s Vengeance Falls sounded particularly impressive in the festival environment, with ‘Strife’ scoring a massive Iron Maiden ‘Fear of the Dark’-esq riff sing-a-long during the intro followed by a super-massive wall of death. A somewhat rare (ish) appearance of ‘Anthem (We Are The Fire) from the bands highly under-rated Crusade album saw sparks rain down on the second stage with the crowd response on the “Woah, woah, Yeah, Yeah” section truly electrifying.
Lead Guitarist Corey Beaulieu as ever did a sterling job on the harsh vocals throughout the set, with bass player Paolo Gregoletto delivering the goods on back-up vocals. New man Mathew Madiro provided a new dynamic on the drums delivering some seriously impressive chops in the biggest performance of his life (so far!). He played as though he been with the band forever, rather than the reality of just a few weeks. He would be a great permanent addition to the band, so here’s hoping that Trivium takes him beyond their remaining tour dates. A further testament to the sheer talents and professionalism of the band and the performance delivered was the lack of gravitation to watch Aerosmith. Even against the odds, Trivium still (somehow) nailed it and established themselves as one of the best acts of the entire weekend.
Back at Main stage Aerosmith closed the festival in true ‘Rock N’ Roll’ style as the band, still at the top of their game, had the Donington crowd well and truly in the palms of their hands. The vibe and energy from both band and crowd was completely magical as the bands greatest hits resonated across the main arena. Though the Trivium clash meant that we joined at the half-way marker, fabulous performances of ‘Same Old Song And Dance’, ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’ and ‘Toys In The Attic’ greeted us before the band launched into the timeless classic ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’. In what can only be described as the stand out moment of the entire weekend and surely the definition of epic, the entire 80,000 strong crowd stood in unison, linking arms with friends, swaying and singing every word as Steven Tyler played a white grand piano on the main stage runway. Absolutely incredible. The goods kept rolling with ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ and the epic ‘Walk This Way’ before the encore kicked in. In what can only be described as saving the best until last, ‘Dream On’ provided the rock’n’roll and then some, as Joe Perry stood atop of Tyler’s Grand Piano and solo-ed into the night, before Tyler got up there himself during the stellar ‘Dream On’. They finished on an almighty high with ‘Mama Kin’. A spectacular finale to one epic weekend of Rock and Metal music. Roll on next year!