11th June 2010
After a night on my friends couch, a Tesco breakfast (quickly becoming a pre-festival tradition) and an emergency Argos run for camping chairs, the diminished DiR crew arrived at Download 2010. After a menacing hike in the blazing sun we managed to find a nice quiet place to pitch our tent on high ground away from the possibility of bogginess (let me stress this wasn’t actually a choice…it was what was available).
Parked in our sumptuous, newly acquired chairs, we shared some early afternoon comfy cans of rapidly warming beer before heading into the arena, almost 2 miles away from our current location. As the first days proceedings didn’t kick off until a rather civilised 3pm we had time in abundance to march over there!
Having not been to a proper (ATP not included) UK summer festival for some time, I was surprised by quite how massive these places are! With the Download site containing 5 stages with 2 huge outdoor stages this felt a lot bigger than Reading and I will say had optimal landscaping with natural bowls by every stage. Plus the sun was shining (unexpectedly), you couldn’t ask for much better than this. Especially with tonights headliners bringing their own world tour stage with them, today already felt somewhat special!
Year Long Disaster
Starting the day in more humble surroundings in the Pepsi Max Tent were Year Long Disaster. Kicking off the festival was always going to be a hard slot and it proved so. Their underwhelming sound failed to make a real impression as they drifted through their set of decent but not special, vintage hard rock.
Seeing as there was plenty of hard rock and metal on offer over the weekend, we decided on something a little bit different for our next band. Anathema played to a majority sunbathing crowd who were delighted with their sweeping atmospheres and slow but hard hitting melodies. In the open air this was total bliss out territory and just as we were all floating into dreamland they sadly departed only to be replaced by A Day To Remember who played us some wishy-washy screamy hardcore mixed-up with emo-pop punk. Needless to say we weren’t impressed with their interruption.
Coheed & Cambria
Prog-Rock titans Coheed & Cambria were next up, inflicting their metal ambitions loose on the gathered masses at the second stage (aptly renamed the Ronnie James Dio Stage, after his passing away). With his hair fluttering like a badly groomed poodle, Claudio Sanchez led intricate melodies and extended prog meanderings which were both amazingly technical and surprisingly catchy. Taking much of their set from their new album this was a standard execution of their material with little or no crowd interaction. Thankfully for them the audience were to busy being in awe of their bonkers sci-fi rock to care. Finding time to throw in the epic metal tune Welcome Home just before they bailed out was a masterstroke which ensured a grand ovation and calls for an encore (which were quickly ignored).
Them Crooked Vultures
With the greatly reduced line-up the only thing left to do was to head towards the main stage in order to set up camp for the evenings main event. If you were clever…like I…you placed yourself dead centre between both main stages and enjoyed 2 sets of classic rock and roll. The first of which came from Them Crooked Vultures. TCV are quite rightly the hottest supergroup around, and this evening they proved worthy of their super title. Their bluesy shuffles and sparkling fuzz guitars were ploughing through riffs like a naked guy through a crowd (yes…this happened!). The interaction between the three prized musicians was astounding! John Paul Jones & Josh Homme had their guitars intuitively connected not forgetting Dave Grohls drum set becoming as big a weapon as those wielded in front of him. Their poppy scuzz blues and slightly too long blues jams went down superbly. But slowly but surely the crowds attention began to fade and with it severe long-stage-drift towards the currently unoccupied stage decorated only by two inflatable red schoolboy caps branded with one huge ‘A’ each fluttering in the wind. It was time for what we’d all been waiting for…..
I have never witnessed such anticipation for a single festival set (nor any performance actually) in my life. The crowd was absolutely buzzing and after a what felt like an eternity, the lights went up as Ac/Dc the living legends & godfathers of Hard Rock n’ Roll blasted onstage revealing just why they needed their own stage. They not only brought with them a seemingly endless catwalk which stretched nearly 30 metres into the crowd but they also thought they’d bring a train too!
The speakers they brought with them was gargantuan too!! Being nearly 3 times bigger than the festivals main stage, they sounded absolutely massive, small children would have been blown away and stray dogs had no chance against these things…it was that powerful. This only made hearing a seemingly endless barrage of timeless rock n’ roll classics even better. Front man Brian Johnson who could probably apply for his bus pass introduced the set with the following choice words:
“We’re here for one reason and that’s to rock and roll, and the party starts right now,”
Now that’s exactly what did happen as the crowd exploded in a wave of jubilation as the first chords of Runaway Train rang out. It was no great surprise to find the crowd knew every word, to every song and yet despite the packed conditioned everyone found room to hop around and sing them manically to strangers (whoever though music could not connect people?).
The songs which got the crowd the most excited was most definitely the bass kicking Thunderstruck, ballsy Shoot To Thrill, the classic riffs of Back in Black & Highway to Hell, not forgetting the huge singalong on You Shook Me All Night Long.
My favourite moments were when the legendary guitar god Angus Young rose high above the crowd on a huge elevating platform while playing his heart out not far from me. He may be old, but he can still rock with the best if them! Also in true rock style he flashed his pants, only to reveal the band logo of course. His axe wielding was brilliant with big time classic blues solo’s, those unforgettable riffs and a magical presence in front of a crowd nearly 100,000 strong.
The train wasn’t tonights only prop either, confetti & fireworks aside they also had a huge bell was lowered onstage to be rung for the opening sequence to Hells Bells, a 30ft inflatable woman (Rosie) with ample cleavage provocatively perched upon the train for Whole Lotta Rosie and a line of cannons which exploded during set closer For Those About To Rock (We Salute You).
I can find no words to criticise tonights performance, this was simply the greatest rock show I have ever witnessed and it doubt it will ever be topped! Ac/Dc wrote the book on Rock and tonight they played it in it’s entirety too! A truly awe inspiring performance! Lets hope this is not the last time we see them out on tour!