Sunday. This was looking to be the best day of the weekend from the initial announcement. A day which just got better and better and better. A day which a lot of young people weren’t bothered with but older people loved and the converse applied for Saturday. And then there’s contrarian me thinking Sunday 2015 is the single most impressive day Download has ever had. Maybe I was born in the wrong generation.
Digression aside, it was time to hit the ground running. Early doors for The Dead Daisies. With a debut album coming from nowhere a couple of years back, this was a band high up on my list of bands to see this weekend. With their new album, Revolucion in tow, newcomer John Corabi led the supergroup through a quick set of songs from the new album. Given the album was barely a week old, the songs went over well. Closing with “Lock ‘n’ Load” from the self-titled debut to a packed second stage, it was a great way to wake up and I’m looking forward to them making their Glasgow debut later this year.
After the easy-listening, radio-friendly jams, it was over to the Maverick Stage for the only time that weekend for the mighty Evil Scarecrow. Metal, crabs, robots and a packed tent exploding with straw. And a crowd moving literally like crabs including claw movements with hands. The sheer spectacle on a tiny stage was brilliant. And being in an enclosed area made for the best acoustics the entire weekend. Despite not knowing the band but only going on the recommendation of several people, I walked away with a grin on my face. I think I’ll be seeing them if they come up to Glasgow.
With Tremonti making their Download debut, it was a case of settling in main stage for the rest of the day. Going straight for the gut punch of “You Waste Your Time”, it was a heavy, straightforward set. Given I hadn’t seen Mark Tremonti with his solo band in almost three years, it was great to see him unnerved by the mid-afternoon crowd which had built up. He was far more confident and the growth as a frontman was obvious as he made his guitar work look easy. I would have liked more songs from the new album, Cauterize but we were treated to those the following night in Glasgow.
Another Download debut was the fast-rising Blackberry Smoke. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them in a sold out O2 ABC, twice and that Sunday proved they just get better with every performance. Angling for their heavier songs, even those had been beefed up with songs like “Six Ways to Sunday” and “Shakin’ Hands With the Holy Ghost”. Looking at social media, there’s always some snobbery regarding certain bands playing but Blackberry Smoke managed to stay out of the crosshairs. Battling the elements, they were clearly there to have a good time and they did. As did the crowd. Tight as ever, I’d say they were the best they’ve been yet.
With a quick pit stop, Billy Idol, as much a heritage act that he is, he wasn’t wonderful. Fresh from Glasgow the night before, he hammered through his greatest hits and songs from his latest album, the splendid Kings and Queens of the Underground. Watching from afar was enough to fill the lust to see him. I’m not in any rush to see him again but if he’s playing Download again and there’s nothing else, I’m sure I’ll stop by and catch a song or two.
Now for the booking I had been looking forward to all weekend. A man in a top hat playing a Les Paul and decked out in leather. A band fronted by one of the best frontmen of modern times, Myles Kennedy. Slash and his buddies were back on main stage after their second stage headline slot three years back. As tight as ever, Slash, Myles and Conspirators hammered through a set I expected to hear. The Guns N Roses songs you expect, “Slither” from Velvet Revolver and a good chunk of Slash’s solo stuff. It’s great to hear tracks like “Anastasia” and “Back From Cali” get the same response as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Nightrain”. As my voice slowly recovered from Slipknot, the minute that band appeared, I knew my voice was going to be a wreck. And it was. Screaming equally as loud for bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz as the legend himself and seeing the pictures of the crowd they drew, another two albums and they could easily be closing main stage one night.
Now for the real heavyweight of Motley Crue. Their much-touted farewell tour is doing their festival rounds with Download billed as their last UK festival appearance. It was very much a greatest hits set and with an English tour later this year, there’s some dignity in knowing when to call it quits. Mainly because Vince Neil’s voice is knackered. That said, the sucker that I am, I’m still going to see them with Alice Cooper in November. After all, it’s Crue saying goodbye.
Time, gentlemen, please! 2015 wasn’t going out with a whimper. Kiss were here to bring all their hits and close one of rock’s biggest and best weekend offerings. Even if Gene Simmons did declare rock dead. Why in that case did his band play a show to 80,000 people? I like Kiss. Don’t get me wrong, they have some great tunes but the fact that their performance couldn’t hold my attention, my friends retired for the night and all anyone could talk about was the actual show and not their performance itself speaks volumes. Go see Dressed to Kill, the official tribute act. They’re far more entertaining and make for a good night.
All good things must come to an end. It’s another year before I can step on the soil of Donington. I saw more bands than ever this year. I made some new friends, as always. And I saw some crazy sights only to be seen at Download. To quote Lars Ulrich when Metallica headlined in 2012: “It just gets better and better and better and fucking better!”