Review by Steve Adams & photos by Pete Key
Mmm, England in June…what is a man to do? Watch the England football team’s demise in the World Cup? Sit with middle aged women cheering on Andy Murray at Wimbledon? No, we’re going to Download Festival 2014!
The first thing that becomes apparent when setting foot on the fabled Castle Donington ground is the sheer size of the venue. In days gone by, the “Monsters of Rock” gig was a one day, 5 or 6 band affair. Though most of the big hitters of the time played here…(Van Halen with DLR, Ozzy, Motley Crue, ZZ Top, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Def Leppard…the list is nearly endless) comparing the old “M.O.R” with the animal that is “Download” is a futile exercise.
With the sun shining, the vast army of around 90,000 fans start to fill the huge arena and the main stage, Zippo Encore, Pepsi Max, Jaegermeister and Red Bull stages are soon well patronized, not to mention the numerous bars which all seem to be doing a brisk trade.
First band of the day for your erstwhile Concert Blogger representative are Tesla on the Zippo Encore (second stage). The boys have enjoyed good support over the years here in the UK and it was good to see many of the crowd singing along during their set.
Emphasizing the electric nature of the Download bill, I then went to the (full) Pepsi Max stage to catch Turbowolf perform to a hot and sweaty crowd featuring briefly, a member of the audience on keyboards! For me, these guys (and gal) were one of the stars of the weekend.
Out of the hot “club” atmosphere of the Pepsi Max, it was a long walk past the main stage to have a look at Mia Klose on the Jaegermeister stage. She seemed unscathed from her recent support slot on some of Steel Panther‘s UK dates and gave an enthusiastic performance to an appreciative crowd.
Back to the second stage for a look at The Answer‘s first of two appearances at this years event, whilst on the main stage, Skindred entertained the sun baked crowd, a large proportion of which, remove their shirts for the now famous ‘Newport Helicopter’. A good set from Skindred with Benji Webbe in fine voice as usual.
Following on from Skinderd on the main stage was Black Label Society with Zakk Wylde in typically uncompromising form whilst on the Zippo Encore (second stage) the much vaunted The Temperance Movement offered a little of a retro alternative to Black Label Society.
Danny Vaughn of Tyketto fame gave a good performance back over on the Jaegermeister acoustic stage before his later appearance with his band, the likable American is always good value whether as a solo performer or with Tyketto.
The retro feel of the second stage continued with the excellent Rival Sons, making their second Download Festival appearance in three years. This hard working band improve year on year and whilst it’s easy to spot their ’70′s influences…there is also plenty of originality in the mix also.
By way of contrast, I then went to check out Huntress in the Red Bull Stage, heavy and indeed Metal! The five piece return for a second consecutive year. Vocalist Jill Janus is worth checking out, her powerful vocals belying her diminutive stature.
Rob Zombie on the sun soaked main stage should have been brilliant but a technical hitch through the set made for a slight loss of momentum…a pity as I think he’d have given headliners Avenged Sevenfold a run for their money.
By the time AX7 hit the stage, a large proportion of the crowd were there to see them. They didn’t put a foot wrong in front of a parisian crowd, tracks from their UK no:1 album “Hail to the King” being particularly well received. Topped off with a spectacular firework display, the legions of fans left Day 1 of the Download Festival very happy and somewhat inebriated for the most part!
It was interesting to see some of the fresh faces that were evident on Friday, looking slightly weary first thing Saturday morning. Those bars HAD been doing brisk business.
Good time party cowboys The Boss Hoss playing a sort of rock/skiffle and country combination and featuring a trumpet section got the crowd in party mood on the Zippo Encore Stage, finishing their set with a hoe-down version of Cameo’s “Word Up”.
One of the more interesting performances was from Twenty One Pilots, hailing from Columbus, Ohio. The US two piece have a cult following with the drum, piano combination and the performance of the two guys leaving a lasting memory.
Skid Row take to the stage with the weather taking a turn for the worst. This didn’t bother them though, with lead singer Johnny Solinger yelling “f$ck the rain”. Solinger, to some, lives in the shadow of the Skid’s former front man, but irrespective of whether Sebastian does come back, one can’t fault the bands work ethic…they plough through new tracks and old favourites and seem to be enjoying themselves. Scotti Hill in particular, gives it 110% whether he’s playing to 400 or 40,000 folk.
With the main stage filling up for Bring me the Horizon and Fall Out Boy before headliners Linkin Park, next on the second stage were 80′s rockers Twisted Sister. Dee Snider (almost) defied his years delivering (amongst others) “You can’t stop rock n Roll”, “Stay Hungry” and “We’re not going to Take it”.
Sunday morning on the main stage and after the recent problems with Jake E Lee’s recent UK tour, it was pleasing to see the ex Ozzy gunslinger on stage, ending his brief set with ‘Bark at the Moon’. Winger up next on the main stage, Kip wearing his shades despite it being cloudy and raining. Rock ‘n’ Roll! “Stone Cold Killer” and “Headed for a Heartbreak” are well received by the growing crowd. No “Can’t get Enough” though!
Full of LA swagger, were Buckcherry who I last saw here in 2009. The weather was kinder that day but the boys and crowd ignored the rain as “Lit Up” started the party. “All night long”, AC/DC’s “Big Balls” were aired – so to speak before “Gluttony” and set closer, “Crazy Bitch”.
Richie Sambora up next on the main stage with the surprise (for me at any rate) of Orianthi on guitar. Sambora and the Alice Cooper guitarist made a good team on stage as they worked through some of Sambora’s solo material and, enviably a couple of Bon Jovi standards. The double neck comes out for a sing-a-long “Wanted Dead or Alive”.
Whilst Joe Bonamassa may not look ‘metal’, he as we know can certainly play with the best of them and his inclusion on the bill is typical of the eclectic nature of the Download Festival line ups. “The Ballad of John Henry” and “Song of Yesterday”…the latter from his tenure with Black Country Communion are received warmly by the crowd, many who had gone to the main stage to specifically see Mr Bonamassa.
The festival goers were once again spoilt for choice as, whilst Volbest performed on the main stage, Black Stone Cherry made a surprise appearance on the Pepsi Max Stage.
Andy Copping,festival organizer took to the stage to introduce Steel Panther…hinting that he’d tried to sign up Van Halen for the gig. Van Halen are Copping’s favourite band so watch this space. The Panther set doesn’t particularly change…50% stand up comedy routine and 50% 80′s hair metal homage, but it was great! Panther can play and play well! Satchell’s story of himself, Richie Sambora and “the chick from the Pretty Reckless” cannot be repeated!
The giant screen on the main stage shows ‘behind the scenes’ live footage of the members of Aerosmith preparing to take the stage…with a bunch of ladies making their way out of Tyler’s dressing room. Moments later the ‘Bad Boys from Boston’ hit the stage, launching into “Train kept a- Rollin’” followed in quick succession by “Eat the Rich” and “Love in an Elevator”. The tempo was slowed for “Jaded and Cryin’”. The first time I saw Aerosmith here at Castle Donington was in 1990 and whilst it’s true that Tyler is not quite as athletic as he once was (neither am I!) he still leaves nothing in the dressing room, working the stage and not forgetting where all the cameras are either! “Come Together” and “Walk this Way” are given a run out with Joe Perry looking every inch the rock star that he is. As the band emerge for the encore, Steve Tyler takes up his position at the piano for a killer rendition of “Dream On”. “Sweet Emotion” follows before “Mama Kin” and a huge amount of confetti bring an end to Download 2014. A great ending to a great festival by a great band.
Lastly, a quick mention for the organizers and staff of Download 2014…all the security guys were very friendly and helpful and everywhere was well signed posted with even the portable toilets having attendants…if that doesn’t persuade all you little Monsters of Rock to get to Castle Donington next year, I don’t know what will.
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