Download festival – review

Donington Park, Derbyshire

While there are many things Def Leppard can be criticised for, a lack of showmanship or sense of spectacle are not among them. A quarter of a century after they first played here in its Monsters of Rock guise, they made the first day of Download their own with a glitzy greatest-hits set. Earlier, the recently reunited Darkness did their best to outshine them with their own knowing nods to stadium rock, but singer Justin Hawkins was mostly in danger of being upstaged by his comedy Victorian-strongman moustache.

There were gems to be found further down the bill, too. Ghost's gloriously catchy pysch-pop take on satanic metal made a mockery of their short, early-afternoon slot on Saturday; Evile brought a welcome blast of old-school thrash, and consolidated their position as a festival must-see. As rainclouds hung ominously above, the thunderous doom-laden dirges of southern rockers Down seemed to almost will the heavens to open. That's Down, as opposed to System of a Down, whose frenetic nu-metal singalongs that closed out the day were anything but dirgey. Meanwhile, over at the second stage, the clock was being turned back. Before the nostalgic double-whammy of Alice Cooper and Twisted Sister, 70s superstars Cheap Trick were attacking hits such as I Want You to Want Me and Surrender with a vigour that probably had half the audience wondering who these hot-headed young upstarts were. "In case you didn't know, we're a new band from the USA called Cheap Trick," announced 57-year-old frontman Robin Zander. The time-travel illusion was complete.

On Sunday, the deluge that had been threatening to fall all weekend finally arrived, and Download's population split up in those two distinct festival tribes: the well-prepared, for whom watching bands though the prism of a waterproof PVC shelter is only a mild inconvenience; and the well-refreshed, for whom nothing could be more fun than sliding down a muddy hill, drenched and stripped to the waist, hypothermia be damned. Ironically, by the time the Cult got the chance to roll out their unofficial festival anthem, Rain, the downpour had eased up. And the legion of hardy souls who stuck around for Linkin Park were rewarded with the kind of rap-metal bombast that days spent standing around in muddy fields are made for.

Contributor

Jamie Thomson

The GuardianTramp

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