Download Festival: The Classic Rock Report (Day Three)
Concluding Classic Rock‘s round-up of this past weekend’s happenings at Download. Last but not least: Aerosmith finish Sunday in style.
There’s nothing thousands of hungover tent-dwellers need less on the last day of a festival than starting the day slowly burning their exposed bellies to the exact colour and shape of a large Edam and ending it crotch-deep in stinking slurry as the airspace over the East Midlands dumps a decent-sized ocean’s worth of freezing water on our heads. So it’s a testament to the nature of this friendliest of festivals that there’s a distinct lack of whinging and a whole lot of squelchy dancing right up until the moment Steven Tyler minces from the stage at the end of Aerosmith’s closing set.
It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise to see such resilience when you take into account the staying power of the day’s bands. While the not-really-missed bog standard US metallers Nonpoint make their big comeback after a decade on the Ronnie James Dio Stage, Saxon, albeit in their umpteenth incarnation, are still sounding huge after three decades on the touring hamster wheel.
But it’s Slash who provides the first genuine ‘moment’ of the day though. Proving a deep understanding of festival crowds, his set is stuffed with Guns N’ Roses hits such as Rocket Queen, Sweet Child O’ Mine and Paradise City which are howled along to by the happy drunks in the pit. He’s found a perfect foil in Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, who’s beaming so widely he looks he’s won the lottery, found a cure for cancer and pulled Angelina Jolie all in the same day.
With a rich, powerful blues voice he hits the high notes beautifully and invigorates these old favourites in a way that, to be brutally honest, Axl Rose doesn’t these days. And when Lemmy is brought out to add his glorious rasp to Doctor Alibi, he and Slash look like a couple of rock ‘n’ roll cartoons brought to life. In Download terms, this set is the ‘Johnny Cash Sunday afternoon moment’ Glastonbury-goers hold so dear.
The high point couldn’t last though, and it falls on Billy Idol and nature to figuratively and literally piss on our bonfire. While the crowd bays for Generation X songs and the inevitable White Wedding, Idol prowls the stage while his band subject us to reams of eye-crossingly boring new material. In a heckle of cosmic proportions, the heavens open and a couple of chunky blokes wearing fairy wings and pink tutus are spotted trying to cobble together a makeshift ark from Tuborg cups and rain ponchos up on the hill.
Motorhead get us back on track with a typically earsplitting, grizzled blast, but it’s Steel Panther who are putting smiles back on faces on the Ronnie James Dio Stage, their ingeniously idiotic banter and syphilitic lyrics both saluting and roundly mocking the hair metal scene that they clearly adore and find ridiculous in equal measure. They’re like the band Zoolander would have formed if he’d discovered Motley Crue rather than Yves Saint Laurent.
If you don’t find their straight-faced rock cover of Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way hilarious at this point in the day, as they pout into the rain and come out with gloriously dumb pronouncements about their own inadequacy and sexual misadventures, you’re probably a little bit dead inside. Somehow, Spinal Tap’s illegitimate offspring found each other on Sunset Strip, and they’re carrying the torch of their forefathers admirably.
Idiotic in a different way, we get to Airbourne, who almost come a fatal cropper when frontman Joel O’Keefe mountaineers to the very roof of the stage, headbanging precariously on the slippery frame as thunder and lightning threatens to make it his greatest and last performance. The security guards certainly don’t see the funny side, pulling the plug and giving him a good telling off, but you certainly can’t call this band dull.
By now, the site is the Somme and there are more than a few poor souls wandering around looking like those mummified cavemen they occasionally dig up in fields in Dorset. This distinct lack of glamour has failed to reach Aerosmith, though, as Steven Tyler stalks on stage decked out in a gold jacket and eye-wateringly tight snakeskin trousers, looking like Huggy Bear raiding Cher’s wardrobe. By comparison, we punters are barely amoebas, and amoebas somehow managing to contract trenchfoot despite the lack of limbs at that. Suddenly, we’re in an underwater Vegas, Love In An Elevator raising spirits instantly, Joe Perry looking the picture of guitar god cool, the frontman demanding attention as he slickly slides across the stage.
The intra-band tensions of the past year are put to one side, for the duration of the set at least, and while the blues jamming gets a bit much, the stunningly uncynical mass singalong of uberballad Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing is genuinely moving and Sweet Emotion still sounds immense. As the hordes doggy paddle for their very lives towards the exit, they do so having wrung every last drop of fun out of the somewhat challenging final hours of Download 2010.
– Emma Johnston