It goes without saying now that Download Festival is one of the most renowned and prestigious rock festivals in the whole world. A performance there, especially a debut, sets a notable milestone in any band or artist’s career, and year after year manages to cater for almost any fan of rock, punk, or metal.
With the third and final day of the festival’s 2017 edition upon us, Sunday has been chosen to be this year’s classic rock day on the main stage, and there are few better acts to close everything off than Aerosmith. Only this time, it’s different. This time, it’s Aerosmith‘s final ever UK show, so we headed onto the field one last time this year, as we don’t wanna miss a thing.
THE LEMMY (MAIN) STAGE:
ORANGE GOBLIN – 9/10
“We’re Orange Goblin, and we’re here to play some fucking heavy metal!” screams giant frontman Ben Ward before launching himself into ‘Turbo Efflunt (Elephant)’. This slot is SO deserved for the stoner metal band who have grafted their way to this point for over two decades, and have been consistently putting out some of the best head banging records around. The Londoners have finally demanded quite the following, and not because they’ve got any better: they’ve always been this good as 2000’s ‘Scorpionica’ proves, and they’ve undoubtedly gained a bunch of new fans from this outing. ‘The Devil’s Whip’ and ‘Saruman’s Wish’ are breaking necks in the audience as Ward commands the stage with ease. ‘Quincy The Pigboy’ unleashes the biggest riff Orange Goblin have every written and the latest fan favourite ‘Red Tide Rising’ brings a sadly too short set to an end. [MH]
THE CADILLAC THREE – 5/10
Classic rock Sunday is in full swing when bands like The Cadillac Three turn up; the trio are unashamedly Southern, and play country infused rock ’n’ roll songs about Tennessee, whiskey, cold beers, Tennessee, and whiskey. ‘Tennessee Mojo’ is pretty fun and the chat between songs is light hearted, but unless you’re big on the Southern USA scene then this is hardly going to excite you too much. ‘I’m Drunk Like You’ is a slower number that’s well crafted, and ‘Peace, Love & Dixie’ is pretty fun, but the whole charade loses its appeal pretty quickly. Any more than the allotted time given to The Cadillac Three would’ve been far too long. [MH]
IN FLAMES – 6/10
Swedish metal rockers In Flames have been going at it for 27 years now, and will always have a place at Download Festival. This year they’re on the main stage and touring their latest record ‘Battles’ which opening track ‘Wallflower’ is taken from, but you won’t see a stranger choice for a set than this all day as the track is so ploddy and doesn’t introduce the band to the stage well at all. ‘Deliver Us’ is much improved and has that In Flames stomp that we know they’re capable of, but vocalist Anders Friden has a bone to pick with Download as he thinks the amount of free beer allocated to them is not enough for Swedish men, and protests by placing the cooler at the end of the catwalk for all to see. The seasoned band are so at home on the large outdoor stage and their riffs match the occasion perfectly. ‘The End’ has a great melody but it’s the classic ‘Take This Life’ that gets the biggest cheer of the set when it kicks in, but only after Friden gets another quick dig in about the beer and (jokingly… maybe) request more for when they return to the UK in the winter. [MH]
AIRBOURNE – 8/10
Who else is going to get you hyped up for Steel Panther, Alter Bridge, and Aerosmith other than the Australians in Airbourne? With their AC/DC tinged vocals and party hard vibe led by the effervescent Joel O’Keefe, their performance is the perfect warm up for things to come. As if their hard rock wasn’t enough to rouse the crowd, their well honed crowd interaction, be it chugging beer or hopping onto the shoulders of their kangaroo mascot and being carried up and down the walkway in front of the crowd, does the job. The sun soaked field makes them feel like they’re back at home in Australia as they rip through a setlist of pure bangers; ‘Down On You’, ‘Girls In Black’, and, of course, finishing up with ‘Runnin’ Wild’. [ES]
ALTER BRIDGE – 6/10
Coming at us with the riffs, hooks, and of course Myle Kennedy’s insatiable voice, Alter Bridge are back at Download Festival once again for some main stage action. Admittedly, set opener ‘Come To Life’ is a little slow, but as soon as they delve into ‘Farther Than The Sun’, they’re in full swing. The perfect precursor to this year’s final headliners Aerosmith, ‘Metalingus’ leads into a slightly cheesy guitar solo duel between Kennedy and Mark Tremonti, but the crowd lap it up nonetheless. They conclude their set with ‘Rise Today’, and leave the stage to a mix of raucous applause, and anticipation for what’s about to come next. [ES]
AEROSMITH – 10/10
Finally, after what seems like a lifetime of waiting, the legends that are Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, and Joey Kramer take to the stage to perform as Aerosmith for the last time on UK soil. What follows after that is two hours of pure euphoria, churning out hit after hit, much to the exhilaration of the crowd.
It’s almost impossible to believe that Steven Tyler is 69 years old; his vocals are as on point as they were way back when the blues rockers first started. With scarves and hair flying, he struts and spins and sings his way through all of their classics with the energy of a man less than half his age; ‘Crying’, ‘Livin’ On The Edge’, ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’, the list is endless. Having seemed a little off his game the last time Aerosmith graced the Download stage back in 2014, Joe Perry is on top form tonight, fingers moving flawlessly across the frets with the ease and grace of a man who was born to do nothing else in life but play guitar.
Their setlist is peppered with the odd cover here and there; Fleetwood Mac seem to feature quite heavily, with the band playing both ‘Stop Messin’ Around’ and ‘Oh Well’ in succession. It’s a joyous sight to look across the field at the crowd surrounding the stage, people of all ages belting out the words to ‘Love In An Elevator’ one minute, and serenely enjoying Tyler’s soulful rendition of ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ the next. The whole experience is quite a cathartic one, knowing that this is the last time these songs will be heard live ever, but also overwhelmingly joyous at being fortunate enough to witness this one legacy coming to a close.
‘Dream On’ is the perfect choice for the encore, with a cover of James Brown’s ‘Mother Popcorn’ sandwiched in-between that and the legendary song that is ‘Walk This Way’, and as the final drums pound and the feedback from the guitar rings out, it’s undeniable that everyone who saw this final performance can agree that there was no finer way to say goodbye to the Demon of Screamin’, the Toxic Twins, the Bad Boys From Boston. [ES]
ZIPPO ENCORE STAGE:
TYLER BRYANT & THE SHAKEDOWN – 6/10
It’s classic rock Sunday, and so what better way to kick it off than with stadium rock band go to support band Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. The band have been on the road with Guns ‘N’ Roses, Aerosmith, and AC/DC, so an opening slot on the second stage should be easy going for the Tennessee rockers. ‘Weak n’ Weepin” kicks in the classic Southern twang while all of the members of the band bang their head so that their long hair flies everywhere. “We’ve come a long way to rock ‘n’ roll for you!” expressed Bryant before ‘Criminal Imagination’ starts which receives the full seal of approval from the oldies in the audience; their The Cooper Temple Clause style take on rock ‘n’ roll is perfect for the midday sun on a day that revolves around the more old school bands of rock scene, and they make it worth getting to the arena early. [MH]
RED FANG – 7/10
Moving the second stage in a harder direction is Red Fang. The Portland stoner rockers play a little too short a set, though that does leave the crowd wanting more, which is perfect for the barrage of crushingly loud bands that are up after them. Despite it being a little bit of a windy morning, the sound is absolutely on point for these guys, the likes of ‘Malverde’ and ‘Cut It Short’ are really crisp and clear, which is no mean feat in a festival environment! Despite them being on so early in the day, there’s a great turnout for the guys, and a lot of dancing and interacting to boot. They have a slight mishap in which their banner falls down, but not even the inconvenience of that could make a mark on the success of their set. [ES]
DEVILDRIVER – 7/10
It’s been 5 years since DevilDriver last took to a stage at Download Festival, and yet it’s almost as though they’ve never been away as their gut-punching groove metal rips through the Sunday afternoon sun. Despite two to three days worth of hangovers bestowed on the crowd, singer Dez Fafara demands pit after pit, and the crowd are only too happy to oblige. The formerly calm audience soon transform into a swirling mass of fists and feet like no other band can command. ‘I Could Care Less’, ‘Not All Who Wonder Are Lost’, and ‘Meet The Wretched’ are simply a sign things to come for the Zippo Encore stage today. DevilDriver are coming in heavy, and it’s only going to get heavier. [ES]
ANATHEMA – 2/10
Anathema used to be a gothic rock and metal band with aggressive raw vocals, but good God those days were a very long time ago, and this form of the band make Elbow sound heavy. There’s nothing of excitement or even intrigue happening on the stage today, and even a shout of “Yeah” from the singer almost wakes an ensemble of sleepers in the crowd. Most of these songs are completely indistinguishable, and the likes of ‘Thin Air’ and ‘Distant Satellites’ is just so far removed from anything even remotely related to Download Festival that it really is bizarre. This might have been a good booking 20 years ago, but this so alienating and pointless that many in the crowd won’t be making it out to the upcoming tour they were plugging. [MH]
MINISTRY – 7/10
The first thing that you notice about Ministry is the condition of band founder and frontman, Al Jourgensen, who has uncountable facial piercings, tattoos across his head, and looks an absolute state in general. But, the industrial metal pioneer’s look gives him character and the menace needed to front a band like Ministry. The Chicago band delve into tracks spanning their whole career, from recent hits ‘Punch In The Face’ onto the excellent chug during ‘Lies Lies Lies’ that has Jourgensen going fully at it in his Che Guevara shirt. The hits are all out at the end for the ideal festival set with ‘Psalm 69”s ‘N.W.O’ and ‘Just One Fix’ bringing the doom electronics with excellent effectiveness that bounces with the guitar when it kicks in. ‘Thieves’ closes the Ministry proceedings with thrash metal drums that would even make Slayer proud. A decent showing from the industrial rockers who’ve got plenty of support out there today, and played on the crowd to make a great set for fans and newcomers alike. [MH]
CLUTCH – 8/10
Clutch could probably squeeze in anywhere on the Download line-up, and, even when grouped in with some of the heavier metal bands on the classic day, they still seem to be placed appropriately. The industry has massive respect for Clutch and their brand of funk metal, and they sound as slick as normal on the Zippo Encore stage today. The band could pick tracks from any of their records due to their consistency, but the big backdrop behind the band has the ‘Psychic Warfare’ cover on it and the Maryland blues rockers open up with the excellent ‘Your Love Is Incarceration’ before Neil Fallon asks the audience “Please allow me to adjust my pants?” and dives head first into ‘The Mob Goes Wild’. Fallon’s voice is the best instrument that the band could hope for, and he uses it with full effect in everything he does. ‘Burning Beard’ and ‘Sucker For The Witch’ sound brilliant, and he has the crowd in awe of his quality and sleek coolness. Clutch would have to be on horrific form not to sound great with the quality of these songs, and, of course, they sounded spot on. [MH]
THE AVALANCHE STAGE:
BLOOD YOUTH – 8/10
Straight into the action, ‘Dead Space’ and ’24/7′ introduce the crowd to Blood Youth, but they still need some convincing despite the best efforts of frontman Kaya Tarsus who’s firing on all cylinders. The Harrogate hardcore punks start getting a reaction when ‘Making Waves’ hits the speakers as a mosh pit opens up, and even has Spider-Man and Shrek getting involved. The new material from ‘Reason To Stay’ has a more defined guitar sound that works well with the Avalanche Stage speakers. The noise is spreading fast; by the time ‘Mood Swing’ and the relationship ending ‘Closure’ make it into the set, the tent has filled up. The band comment that it’s busier than it was when they played 2 years ago and that it’s important to support new music, much to the pleasure of the crowd who respond with a circle pit for ‘Failure’ and maintain the energy for new album title-track, ‘Reason To Stay’: it looks like a bright future for Blood Youth who have integrity, authenticity, and make some fucking top riffs. [MH]
DEAD! – 3/10
London rockers Dead! are starting to pop up everywhere, and their opening track ‘Something More Original’ shows why as it’s catchy, quick, and well-received by the new Avalanche Stage. The good start falls off a cliff as new track ‘Any Part’ falls completely flat, and the band seem like they’re trying way too hard. ‘Skin’ is slightly better but ‘Jessica’ is awful, yet not even close to the travesty of the completely unnecessary cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ which is a train wreck imitation and frankly useless. ‘Enough, Enough, Enough’ is up next, and by this stage, it would be very difficult to argue with them. [MH]
TOUCHÉ AMORÉ – 9/10
Thanks to the success of their latest record ‘Stage Four’, Touché Amoré have emerged as the new kings of this post-hardcore meets emo scene, and they’re by far the most emotionally moving and straining of the lot. The passion that comes out of Jeremy Bolm’s mouth and heart is fascinating on ‘~’ as the Los Angeles band open up with material from 2011’s ‘Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me’ with ‘Pathfinder’ and ‘The Great Repetition’, but it’s ‘Amends’ that really starts to get those tear ducts working when his voice crackles shouting “For what it’s worth… I’m sorry”. The band are on sharp form as they charge the emotion throughout ‘Palm Dreams’ and ‘Rapture’, and when the time comes for ‘Honest Sleep’, they initiate that circle pit with a tempo not seen on the rest of tracks. When the crescendo leads up to the solo screams, Bolm let’s the crowd sing for him this time, and when there’s a tent full of people singing those passionate words back at the guy who wrote them in the first place, it leaves for a very powerful moment. [MH]
BASEMENT – 7/10
Ipswich alternative rockers Basement took some time off in 2012 and came back to the excellent ‘Promise Everything’ and kicked on from where they left off pre-hiatus. Now the band are playing Download for the first time, and they’re ideal for the Avalanche stage crowd. The fuzzy and effortless melody in ‘Breathe’ is almost hypnotic, and ‘Bad Apple’ has drums that pick you up and carry you on a journey throughout the track. ‘Brother’s Keeper’ picks up the tempo slightly, and allows Andrew Fisher to pick up some spotlight for his 90s jaded vocal performance. A pretty sharp looking pit emerges during ‘Promise Everything’ as Fisher describes how he always uses Download Festival as a reference for what most pits should look like, so now that they’ve made it to Donington, it better be good. Basement keep themselves under the radar, but it’s great to see them back permanently and demanding packed stages like they did today. [MH]
MOOSE BLOOD – 8/10
Moose Blood have become the pinnacle of sing-a-long emo pop-punk bands since the release of ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time’ back in 2014. The band have already have such a devout following that they can rely on to know every word to every song, and Download Festival is no different. ‘Pastel’ and ‘Honey’ set the tone with their laid back vocal emphasised light melodies that have words that mean everything to everyone in the tent. Old reliable ‘Bukowski’ still deserves its spot on every set that Moose Blood play, and has the Avalanche Stage eating out of the palms of Eddy Brewerton’s hands. The singer’s fragile and honest singing makes him so likeable, and when he gets into it like he does on ‘Swim Down’, the band can’t be beat. ‘Gum’ takes the award for loudest crowd participation of the set when the crowd scream “smile like you do” at the top of their voices, which leaves ‘Knuckles’ to close up before the fans leave the tent and decide on their choice of headliner for the night. Moose Blood have never been out of form, and with the disappearance of bands like Brand New, there’s a big gap in the market for a huge emo band, and it’s there for the taking. [MH]
Written by Mike Heath [MH], and Emma Stone [ES]
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.