Download Festival: The Classic Rock Report (Day One)
Here we go with Classic Rock‘s round-up of this past weekend’s happenings at Download. First off: It’s Friday, so it must be AC/DC!
Given that the rumours that abounded around about AC/DC’s performance on Friday night, in the run-up to the event itself – the band had their own stage, their logo would be missing from event merchandise, that they were under the belief this was an AC/DC gig and not a festival, that they’d demanded a two-hour gap between Them Crooked Vultures and their own performance – then the big question on everyone’s lips was: would the veteran rockers deliver? We’ll get to that later.
Arriving on site Friday lunchtime, Classic Rock was met with two pleasing sights. One – the fact that the blanket of cloud that had been lodged in the skies above the festival site in the week leading up to Download 2010 was dispersing rapidly and a baking sun was beginning to shine down on the site. Secondly was Classic Rock’s own VIP tent in the Guest Area backstage, which would very swiftly become party central for the rest of the weekend.
So immediately the signs for a great weekend were looking good. By the time Unearth began rattling around on the main stage, limbs, faces and necks were reddening madly in the afternoon sun. To be honest, the bulk of the main stage on Friday wasn’t hugely impressive, and it wasn’t until the angular riffing and Zeppelin-like rhythms of Them Crooked Vultures took to the stage at about 6.45pm that the spirit of a great festival seemed to be pervading through the crowd.
Before that however, there was still plenty to enjoy on the variety of stages dotted around the rapidly filling and well laid out festival site. Heading up to catch Anathema on the Ronnie James Dio stage, we had to wonder how the Liverpudlian proggers would fare, given the short time slot – only half-an-hour, that they’d been granted. But their brand new album, We’re Here Because We’re Here, is one of the best British prog rock albums you’ll have heard in many a year, and the genial nature of the band’s set, along with the clement conditions and pleasant surroundings means that Download 2010 can only be construed as a success for the septet.
Heading straight down to the Red Bull Stage, it rapidly became apparent that Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders really should have been on a much bigger stage.To be fair, the Red Bull tent was big, but clearly Hawkins’ place as a member of the Foo Fighters really is the ace card in his deck, pulling in the dedicated and the curious in equal measures. It basically means you can’t get anywhere near the stage, and so the 25 minutes or so that the band are on stage is spent enjoying the sunshine in the crowd, which as it happens, is the perfect setting for the breezy power pop that Hawkins and his band ply their trade in.
It’s back up to the Ronnie James Dio stage for Coheed & Cambria, a band who seem to split opinion with rock fans. Undeniably progressive in sound, they still attract a misguided emo following of sorts – possibly because this is how the band were viewed when they first appeared, although it didn’t take long for their progressive traits to shoot to the fore. Today it’s a day of prog metal, leaning towards the band’s latest album The Black Rainbow, but not forgetting some of the better known numbers for their back catalogue. The band’s evident stagecraft makes their 50 minutes seem like a breeze.
Word sweeps through the backstage area that the headliners are about to take the stage like a bushfire, and the exodus out front is met with the view of an enormous crowd ready and waiting to rock. True, AC/DC do have their own stage – two devil-horned Angus caps sit atop either side, and the walkway that was a part of the Black Ice stage set of last year snakes out into the crowd. The roar that erupts as the Black Ice intro tape rolls is deafening, reaching fever pitch when the train crashes through the back of the stage. And as Angus peels out the opening riff to Rock ’N’ Roll Train, 100,00 rockers indulge in a bout of synchronised headbanging.
To be honest, the start of AC/DC’s set seems slightly perfunctory. Brian Johnson makes no mention of the event in hand, merely grunting out a few bland pleasantries. But suddenly, as the chanting intro to Thunderstruck rolls out, AC/DC kick into gear and the sense of excitement is palpable. From hereon in they simply can’t fail. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Highway To Hell, High Voltage, The Jack, Whole Lotta Rosie – it’s winner after winner, delivered in the style that makes AC/DC truly a unique rock ’n’ roll phenomenon.
As the driving riff of Let There Be Rock thunders across the site, you know we’re reaching the climax, and so, as the canons appear for the closing For Those About To Rock. True, the cannons are too quiet (as they were throughout the Black Ice tour) and so, strangely, are the fireworks that greet DC’s departure (health and safety gone mad one wonders?). But despite the slow start, it’s a performance that sees all and sundry leaving the site with the biggest, sloppiest grins you’re likely to see.
After that, there was only one thing for it. Off to the Classic Rock tent to celebrate. And then some.
– Jerry Ewing
Tags: AC/DC, Airbourne, Alter Bridge, Anathema, Angus Young, Billy Idol, Broan Johnson, Classic Rock, Coheed & Cambria, Download Festival, Foo Fighters, Generation X, Glastobury, Guns N' Roses, Joe Perry, Johnny Cash, Led Zepelin, Lemmy, Motorhead, Myles Kennedy, Nonpoint, Ronnie James Dio, Saxon, Slash, steel panther, Steven Tyler, Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders, Them Crooked Vultures, Unearth