We review rock’s best three-day festival bringing you the best action and the ultimate SPHERE-friendly acts. Here is the first of three.
DAY ONE – WITH DOM SMITH AND HELEN GILROY
HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD – MAIN STAGE
There is a big buzz about the main stage today for the opening of the festival and this six-piece silence all of their critics with an incredibly powerful performance…of their first (and biggest track) ‘Undead’. After this, some of the tunes begin to sound the same even though the energy and desire is there on songs like ‘Everywhere I Go’ and ‘Young’. The time of day is just not on their side and most of the crowd above 16 lose interest, despite some clever electronics and Shady-style fast-paced rapping.
THE BLACKOUT – MAIN STAGE
The Blackout are just one of those bands. People either love or hate them, however today, the Welsh six-piece put on an amazing show that rivals any of the heavier main stage acts at the festival and in-turn they prove that they are truly one of the UK’s greatest live acts of the moment with their emotionally-charged rock music. Vocalist Sean Smith undoubtedly has one of the strongest voices we will hear all weekend, and as asks the crowd to get on the ground, they comply leading to a huge pit of sweaty punk-kids livin’ it up at the front for blistering tracks including the anthemic ‘Children Of The Night’ and hard-hitting ‘STFUppercut’ from the band’s latest album ‘The Best In Town’ coming across so very well alongside a Limp Bizkit–Korn–Faith No More tribute-medley which aside from being more than a little cheeky is enjoyed by all in attendance.
STAIND – MAIN STAGE
How this band has gained so much success, I will never know. They are probably the most boring live band I have ever witnessed. I saw them once in 2003 and they have barely improved in the six years since then. As a band, they don’t even look like they’re playing the same song – guitarist Mike Mushok gives it his all – rocking out whenever possible, while Aaron Lewis (vocals) and Johnny April (bass) barely move. But this bare minimum is at least a small improvement on their mundane live performance. Expectedly, there is a huge sing-along when the band plays ‘Outside’ – the song they are probably best known for, but as in 2003, I was very glad when the show was over.
DIR EN GREY – SECOND STAGE
These guys are intense. Their live show is full-on and right from the word go, which sees the explosive ‘Child Prey’ tear the faces off of those in the unsuspecting audience who are completely blown away by the ferocity of the group and the pure insanity that engulfs the band’s vocalist Kyo throughout the performance. This is perfectly demonstrated as he whirls around during ‘Obscure’ sounding a bit like a Japanese Chino Moreno (Deftones), on crack. Meanwhile, in the crowd, it’s painful, brutal and euphoric as hundreds of fans charge toward the front only to have their brains bashed in. It’s a worthy sacrifice I am sure as one fan tells me afterward that it was their first experience seeing the five-piece in action and that they were so happy, even though they couldn’t understand a word (and had been scratched violently by another onlooker), just to have seen their new favourite band. Indeed, Dir En Grey are chaotic-as-hell but they are without question, a band that YOU need to see live at least once in your lifetime to truly appreciate.
LIMP BIZKIT – MAIN STAGE
The line-up for Download 2009 main stage was fully injected with the Nu-Metal virus, but even so, when Limp Bizkit were announced to be playing it was certainly a surprise. We decided to go check them out and were fully preparing for a nostalgia trip and a little bit of fun.That is far from what we get. The crowd packed tight as tens-of-thousands showed up to see Limp Bizkit perform and they are actually good, very, very good.
It’s great to see Wes Borland and Fred Durst back together – Durst in his signature red cap and shorts, while Borland opts for a more flamboyant mutant-cockatoo style with black body paint and more black feather boas on his head than Frank N. Furter has in his wardrobe.
Somehow, the whole crowd remembers the words to songs like ‘Hot Dog’, ‘My Generation’ and the infamous ‘Break Stuff’, which isn’t nostalgic but has a fresh new energy to it. It is a pretty rough crowd and I’ve never seen so many circle pits in my life but everyone is lovin’ it, happy and excited – even those who are bleeding have huge grins on their faces as they scream along. The band definitely get more kudos for dragging a few audience members up on stage to enjoy the glory. They’ll never be the most respected band in the world, but it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve got in store for us now. As Durst says, “This is not a reunion – this is a comeback.”
KORN – MAIN STAGE
There’s so much anticipation in the air for this set, and it’s most certainly infectious as long-time fans bite, kick and headbang their way to the front just to catch a glimpse of Jonathon Davis and of course, his sexy-lady mic-stand. The band play a fantastic set geared solely toward pleasing the fans and as the group reel off hit-after-hit including ‘Got The Life’, ‘Coming Undone’ and ‘Blind’ the crowd go mental and create one of the biggest circle pits I have ever seen. Last time the whole band were here, Davis had to be rushed to hospital because of vocal issues leaving a horde of eager vocalists (including Skindred’s Benji Webbe and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor) to fill in for one of the defining events in Download’s history. The great thing is that for this set, the vocals are fantastic and the new drummer Ray Luzier adds a whole heap of impact to the already established tunes. It’s raucous, emotive and it’s bloody good fun. Korn prove today that they are far from done and still one of metal’s best-loved acts when it comes to performing live.
MOTLEY CRUE – SECOND STAGE
During the day it was easy to spot the fans there to see Motley Crue – 80s-style ripped t-shirt, skinny jeans, aviator shades and huge black mullets.
This band is pure rock cheese but it’s so much fun. It’s a very good idea on the organisers part for the second stage to be outside again this year for the sheer volume of people that show up for the bands here today. Plus, the atmosphere outdoors is always better than in a tent.
This band has such a notorious line-up – Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars Tommy Lee and Vince Neal are household names in their own right, so it really is something to see them all up on stage together, having a great time and showing that they still have a huge amount of love for what they do. They show that they are still just as hardcore as ever too, as they stop halfway through their set to share shots of Jagermeister with the crowd, and then proclaim their undying love for everyone that’s shown up. ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ is probably the highlight of the show and even at the back everyone is dancing as the band perfect their epic poses on stage.
Towards the end of the set Tommy Lee’s drum solo whips up energy in the crowd and Nikki Sixx screams, “We’re still alive motherf*ckers!!” which, considering their past… is a miracle. You can tell that this band does not take their position for granted and they thank the crowd at every opportunity and promise to come back next year.
They play an emotional ‘Home Sweet Home’ for the encore as images of the band in their hey-day flash behind them. To end the show Tommy Lee runs round the stage and starts a completely self-indulgent but well-deserved chant with the crowd and collapses on the piano in style..
FAITH NO MORE – MAIN STAGE
I could sit here for weeks writing a review of Faith No More’s set at Download, but unfortunately we don’t have time. There is no possible way for me to do it justice. This was the first time I had ever seen Faith No More (or indeed, Mike Patton) in action, and frankly he blows many of the acts he has influenced (including System Of A Down, who have an immense live show) right out of the water. The band’s long-time anthems including ‘Epic’, ‘Stripsearch’ and ‘We Care A Lot’ sound just as wicked live as they do on record. The show tonight is a master-class in alternative rock-blues-jazz-electro-progressive and metal music and I am sure the band have made some new fans as a result of their performance here, alongside the many who chant along vigorously to the set’s standout ‘Be Aggressive’. Though the band are certainly getting older, they still look as excited to be performing…perhaps a little too excited actually, and they are nearly as wild as they were when they first appeared on our stages and our televisions.
If you don’t know Faith No More, you love a band that loves them and it’s a crime for you to read this review and not go and check them out. Faith No More are unquestionably SPHERE’s band of the weekend.
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