We check out the action from the final day of Download Festival 2009…
DAY THREE – WITH DOM SMITH AND HELEN GILROY
ESOTERICA – TUBORG STAGE
Seeing this band live is a slightly surreal experience… this should have been realised even before they came onstage when a fan in a sheep mask dive-rolls in front of us and rocks out for about five minutes on an inflatable guitar.
EsOterica are pretty good live, if a little nervous, but the nerves soon fade as the show goes on. For new single ‘Silence’ the crowd is subject to an invasion of giant pink inflatable bunnies, which continues for about four songs.
Strangely enough, through the Industrial tones, they have a mildly Pearl Jam-esque vibe about them. By the end of their set they have completely won over the small crowd in the tent and everyone chants along to ‘Don’t Rely On Anyone’ – an anthem written for the record industry.
JOURNEY – MAIN STAGE
Journey kick off the theme for Sunday’s main stage line-up of bands your Dad introduced you to.
The band is pretty static, except for new vocalist Arnel Pineda who joined in 2007 and makes up for all the energy they need, which isn’t much as the music does all the work for them – these songs were meant to be played on a stage like this.
Their stage is pretty bare and dominated a huge red grand piano for those unforgettable piano riffs. ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ kicks the crowd into a huge sing along and barely any word is missed right through ‘Wheel In The Sky’ and ‘Any Way You Want It’. Journey definitely puts the whole audience into a great mood. If this band isn’t on your list of bands to see before you die, they should be.
DREAM THEATER – MAIN STAGE
Dream Theater are a band that unless you’re really into they may have passed you by.
They kick off their set with ‘Pull Me Under’, which was made famous by Guitar Hero World Tour. There’s no denying the talent of this band – they wield a six-string bass, double bass drum kit (essential for extreme metal) and guitar riffs so intricate they could rival Carlos Santana which all goes in to create a very entertaining set. They weave many styles into their music – they have elements of funk and 80s synths that all mix into their brand of stadium metal.
New song ‘A Right Of Passage’ is executed brilliantly with precision and emotion, much like the rest of their set. The only let down is that their solos do go on for a little bit too long and so, they don’t maintain the excitement.
SABBAT – TURBORG STAGE
This lot are interesting. Sabbat have been around the UK thrash scene since 1985 and they pretty much set the blueprint for many modern thrash, speed and heavy metal acts. Other than that, the group’s vocalist Martin Walkyier looks like a relative of comedian Bill Bailey. This band really impresses me with some blistering riffs and a great spirit that encapsulates everything that is great about British Heavy Metal. There’s great musicianship, energy, well thought-out lyrics and a little comedy thrown in there too. On tunes like ‘The Clerical Conspiracy’ and ‘Blood For The Blood God’ these blokes demonstrate just how much influence they carry as the die-hard fans go insane.
ZZ TOP – MAIN STAGE
It’s rare to be able to get right to the front of a crowd at a festival main stage and have room to breathe, let alone dance without the danger of being pushed over or injured. This may be because the average age of this audience is around 20-years-older than audiences for previous days at Download, but also because ZZ Top are one of the least-heavy bands of the festival line-up. Having said that though it is a privilege to watch a band that have influenced countless generations of bands that we love to listen to today.
These guys are rock veterans and as such, their moves may be cheesy but the crowd love it – especially when they come out with fluffy white guitars. You can tell these blokes love every second of their performance. Their blues-infected rock is a calm interlude to the day and hits like ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ and ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ go down well. They end with their cover of ‘Jailhouse Rock’, which gets everyone moving and singing along.
Definitely not the most exciting set of the day, but definitely a memorable one.
STEEL PANTHER – TURBORG STAGE
I don’t think there’s been a more popular act on one of the smaller stages all weekend. Bam Margera (of Jackass fame, of course) introduce the band saying that “they fucked my Mom in the 80s”, and I think that’s one hell of an intro in my opinion! After Margera‘s intro, it’s all joking aside (well, not really) as 80s hair-metal leg-ends Steel Panther take to the stage and unload their excitable blend of wit, sex and rock all-over the packed-out Turborg tent. Tracks like ‘Eyes Of A Panther’ and the brilliant ‘Death To All But Metal’ are ridiculously funny but also pretty darn awesome. This four-piece are a 80s metal fan’s wet dream with raging guitars, raging hair-dos and quite obviously raging libidos. Steel Panther have been plugging away at the music industry since 81’ and it looks like they are finally getting the respect, attention (they can count Corey Taylor and Justin Hawkins among their fans and collaborators) and probably the middle-aged women, they deserve. Good on you boys!
THE 69 EYES – TURBORG STAGE
The Helsinki Vampires are ten minutes late starting their set, and once they are introduced by Bam (yes, he’s back), the crowd are another ten minutes waiting because of technical issues, but when the Goth-glam five-piece finally get going (with a few casualties because of clashes on the main stage and people moving toward the mighty Whitesnake) songs like ‘Gothic Girl’ and ‘Lost Boys’ are standouts of a good set which sees the band at their glittering best. The group have a solid following over here and they are without doubt a captivating live band. Let’s hope they can shine on a bigger stage when they tour the UK again later this year.
PAPA ROACH – SECOND STAGE
There’s no denying that Papa Roach were a band born out of the Nu-Metal era and a lot of people wanted them to stay there, but as with the Nu-Metal revival of Download 2009, the line-up wouldn’t be quite complete without them.
As they appear onstage, the crowd roars and immediately starts moshing like crazy as they open with ‘Between Angels And Insects’ to which everyone remembers the words.
It’s remarkable how good the band look – Jacoby Shaddix looks sharp in a black waistcoat and he definitely has moulded himself into a top-quality frontman – whatever he asks the crowd to do, they oblige. I have never seen so many people throw horns into the air in my life. He riles the crowd up by asking “is anyone sick and tired of talentless losers like Paris Hilton?” as they go into ‘Hollywood Whore’ taken from this year’s album release.
We are treated to ‘Dead Cell’ taken from debut album ‘Infest’ and as they play club favourite ‘Last Resort’ the crowd is left wanting more. If there’s one thing to say about Download 2009, it’s that it’s proven that these Nu-Metal bands still have a lot to give and a lot to surprise us with, and Papa Roach should definitely not be thrown aside.
THERAPY? – TURBORG STAGE
We have said it before and we’ll say it again, for a band coming up to their 20th anniversary, Therapy? are definitely one of the most underrated bands on the UK Alternative scene, but as they return to Donington, the threesome show themselves to be true alt-rock kings. Musically, the more experimental new material including ‘Crooked Timber’ and ‘Clowns Galore’ (dedicated to Gordon Brown…naturally) balances perfectly next to the popular 90s rock hits like ‘Screamager’ and ‘Nowhere’. The band seem re-invigorated in the wake of their latest release and the passion and desire comes across readily in every song that they perform. It’s humbling to see the tent so packed out and the band finally getting the appreciation they deserve from a delighted crowd of old and new fans.
DEF LEPPARD – MAIN STAGE
An unusual choice to close the festival with, Def Leppard certainly have the best visuals of any band we have witnessed this weekend.
They open with ‘Rocket’ and that shoots them off to a good start. It’s quite amazing how much of an energetic back-catalogue this band has. We are treated to 1983’s ‘Too Late for Love’ and soft ballad ‘Two Steps Behind’ when we are joined by a low-flying aeroplane which adds to the atmosphere.
This show will be a memorable one for the band, as they announce that it is 23 years since they last played Donington and with tears in their eyes reminisce about their “spiritual awakening” as that show was the first gig that drummer Rick Allen played after losing his arm – nobody can fail to be moved by his victory. ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ is the highlight of the show and everyone – young and old sings along.
Def Leppard are not one of the most well-known bands of their era, and consequentially their set isn’t packed with hit after hit, but they put on a great show and end the festival on a high.
For for information visit the Downnload Festival website.
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