Gig review: DOWNLOAD, Donington Park, 10-12 June 2016

DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

My last visit to Donington was back in 1988 when – as ‘Monsters Of Rock’ – it also featured Megadeth and headlined by Iron Maiden.

I never really embraced the three day event and with not enough bands of interest on the bill to justify the outlay.  So getting the opportunity to cover the event for a media outlet, I jumped at the chance to give it a try.  Proving to myself and others that there is life left in this old dog yet.

Arriving early on the Friday morning I made my way into the village to soak in the atmosphere and anticipation of the gathering festival goers, the weather was gloriously warm … that was to change later!

Trying to cover an event this size with four stages is pretty much impossible with clashes happening often and the distance between the two largest stages sometimes proves a big problem so this will be a brief sum up of the weekend.

Rammstein - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016


Opening up on the main stage was Royal Republic, a band I had never heard of before hailing from Sweden.  The band wasted no time in getting the crowd warmed up, building a great response from those who had taken the chance to get to the barrier early.  Not so much a metal band but certainly a modern twist on a modern rock sound with an early new romantic vibe and one of the catchiest songs of the weekend: ‘Walk’.

The Amorettes - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

Having seen The Amorettes a few times over the last two years in various support slots I have never been truly convinced of their ability and, more importantly, of their songwriting. Today they benefitted from the hardest downpour for 30 minutes that defined the weekend and made everyone head for the nearest tent stage, meaning they played to a jammed tent.

In all fairness they played a blinder and really grabbed the bull by the horns (no pun intended), the songs sounded more professional than ever and they seemed a totally different animal to what I had seen before.

I really don’t know what to feel about Baby Metal, again having only caught about three songs, and also running late due to the downpour.  I felt a little perplexed by it all, obviously a massive gimmicky type trio but with, it has to be said, a large following.

They are everything that most self-respecting rock/metal fans would despise.  Yet there were adults dressed up as them in the crowd which I found a little disturbing and you have to think that this phenomenon will soon run its course and they will disappear.

The Wildhearts - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

The Wildhearts on the Maverick stage had one of the best receptions of the day, another full tent and a set filled with gutsy punk/rock songs that got everyone singing and jumping for the duration.  Ginger looks healthier now than back in the heyday and enjoying somewhat of a rejuvenation, and it is more than warranted.

Naming the main stage the Lemmy Stage in honur of the late legend seemed fitting, however the tribute that was planned to cover the slot Motorhead were due to play seemed a rather hit and miss affair.

With video clips of Motorhead and interview clips with relevant rock luminaries and their stories about Lemmy, which offered nothing new, it would have felt more of a tribute to have some kind of band made up of members of Motorhead and guest singers.

Rammstein - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

Rounding off Friday, German industrial metal band Rammstein were nothing short of incendiary, in every sense of the word,  a countdown in huge numbers emblazoned on the stage curtain signalled the arrival of one of the most visually stunning and theatrical  headline shows I have seen.  In the first song alone the crowd were treated to pyros, a tap dancing frontman, and masses of purple smoke.

DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016


A quick walk around the arena this morning showed how much damage the rain from the previous day had done to the ground, already thick with mud, no amount of straw that was put down would help the churned terrain.

On the second stage, Santa Cruz from Finland harked back to the hair metal bands of the 80′s with guitarist Johnny Cruz looking the most accomplished and at ease on the stage, whilst vocalist/guitarist Archire Cruz seemed like a rabbit caught in the headlights on a few occasions.

Inglorious were one of the success stories of the weekend and let’s hope that more people get behind them  and propel them to bigger things.

A lot has been written about Inglorious over the last six or seven months, from people claiming they are the saviours of British rock to the other side of the coin, where some have claimed they are merely manufactured around mainman/shouter Nathan James.

I have had the pleasure of seeing them a few times and have always enjoyed their shows and so was intrigued to see how they would fair on a big stage with a big crowd.

Inglorious - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

From the strains of  opening intro ‘Won’t Be Fooled Again’ by The Who, the band casually walked on and finish the intro with aplomb before guitarist Billy Taylor put his foot on the monitor and rocked out the opening riff to ‘Until I Die’, Nathan James joining the band and demanding the crowd to make some noise.

Inglorious were one of the success stories of the weekend and let’s hope that more people get behind them  and propel them to bigger things.

Sixx:AM …anthem after anthem with loads of melody and a huge sound, they delivered the perfect festival appearance coaxing you into raising your fist or singing along.

On the main stage today Sixx:AM made their first appearance in the UK and by were visually exciting and musically spot on,  anthem after anthem with loads of melody and a huge sound, they delivered the perfect festival appearance coaxing you into raising your fist or singing along.

Sixx:AM - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

With the end of Motley Crue just happening , Nikki Sixx has wasted no time in getting Sixx AM out to the masses, with a cracking line up including  James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba.  They have the songs in abundance that put some of the Crue stuff to shame – and that’s coming from someone with two Crue tatoos.

Many at Download will have been simialrly impressed and will await with anticipation their return to the UK in the new year with Five Finger Death Punch.

Rival Sons - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

For me Rival Sons have always instilled mixed feelings, a little bit hyped maybe, but today was the best I had seen them.

They commanded the larger stage and everything seemed a little bit more punchy and with singer Jay Buchanan looking less intense than normal and seemingly enjoying it, and setting up for the knock out punch of set closer ‘Keep On Swinging’.

Ozzy’s stage presence was slow and ponderous, his interaction with the crowd (who had been out in the rain for the best part of the day) was sometimes woeful and his vocals strained.

Billed as Black Sabbath‘s last festival appearance in the UK before calling it a day and based on tonight’s performance, the end can’t come quick enough.  Opening with such a dark and slow song in ‘Black Sabbath’ really set the tone – a low-key and  lacklustre start and from which, for me, they never recovered.

Black Sabbath - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

Sabbath rightly deserve their place and title as one of the pioneers of heavy metal but Ozzy’s stage presence was slow and ponderous, his interaction with the crowd (who had been out in the rain for the best part of the day) was sometimes woeful and his vocals strained.

The crowd got everything that was expected (apart perhaps from the ten minute drum solo) including ‘Children Of The Grave’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ and the inevitable ‘Paranoid’ as the set closer. I am sure that most would disagree with my opinion, but I left with damper spirits after Sabbath, and unfortunately it wasn’t down to the weather.

DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016


It was apparent that a lot of fans that had been camping had given up the ghost and retreated to the safety of sleeping in their cars or even going home, so bad were the weather conditions. For myself the shorts had been consigned to the car and jeans and wellies were the order of the day.

On the main stage Monster Truck are gathering momentum in the UK at the moment and  went down well with those who had assembled early.  The Temperance Movement, led by the jack-in-the-box Phil Campbell, also  came over well  but one song pretty much blended into the next with nothing really keeping my attention and I left feeling they were as bland as their plain white backdrop curtain.

Halestorm - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

You don’t find your attention wandering when Lzzy Hale is wearing the tightest rubber/latex trousers and a pair of killer heels with a Gibson Explorer draped around her body.

‘Apocalyptic’  kicked off Halestorm‘s killer 45 minute set and was a much needed boost after the rather tame set before them, withn Lzzy commanding a larger stage and crowd with ease.

Shinedown - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

The strains of Prince’s  ‘Lets Go Crazy’ signalled the arrival of Shinedown and they raised the bar another notch higher.   Brent Smith’s almost evangelical  stage demeanour in the beginning is quite endearing but by the third song, ‘Enemies’, it was rather annoying.  He takes almost five minutes to get the crowd to shake each others hands and demands that the cameras are pointed to the crowd and not himself so that everyone can jump, when he says so…it is everything that is cheesy but it is also extremely enjoyable.

Disturbed - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

If it hadn’t been Iron Maiden headlining today then there is every chance Disturbed would have stolen the plaudits as Band of the Day. Before today the only song I had heard by Disturbed was ‘The Sound Of Silence’ from one of the many radio stations that picked up on it a few months back, but I made a mental note to search out more after being blown away by David Draiman’s voice and the show they put on.  Who cares if he is a deadringer for Uncle Fester from The Addams Family in his down to the floor black cape.

A weekend stealing moment bringing Lzzy Hale, Blaze Bayley and  Benjamin Burnley up on stage for some fantastic cover songs, with Blaze Bayley being pick of the bunch and sounding in fine form on ‘Baba O’Reily’.

Nightwish : This was not my usual type of guilty pleasure but I found myself being drawn in by the cathedral like sound and  a stage set that was out of a movie studio

Nightwish - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

Nightwish are premier purveyors of symphonic rock  and led by the charming Floor Jansen who proceeded to conjure and cajoule flames and  pyrotechnics all around the stage, a truly breathtaking spectacle while she regales us with tales that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tolkien book.  This was not my usual type of guilty pleasure but I found myself being drawn in by the cathedral like sound and  a stage set that was out of a movie studio.

Nightwish - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

Back in 1988 – my last visit to Castle Donington – Iron Maiden headlined to a crowd of 100,000-plus.  Nearly thirty years later, and as if a welcoming gift from the gods, the clouds parted and the sun shone before the the main event.

Maiden could have played a set of their least familiar songs and nobody would have cared, this band are made for Donington and while a lot of the favourites are disposed of in  favour of fresher stuff most of the classics are played.  The biggest roar was received  for ‘The Trooper’, as the four guitarists take centre stage whilst Bruce – decked out in red military jacket – screams out “Happy Birthday Your Majesty”.

With their full stage show and Dickinson back to full health there isn’t a band that can touch them at festivals and they reminded me why I fell in love with them all those years ago.

‘Hallowed Be Thy  Name’, ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and ‘Iron Maiden’ finished the set in typical fashion, with as much audience participation as is possible, and the encores ‘The Number Of The Beast’, ‘Blood Brothers’  and ‘Wasted Years’ sealed the performance of the weekend.

For me, Download demonstrates the wide spectrum of bands – including the big names – with whom you can re-acquaint yourselves and a great opportunity to make new discoveries.  Highlights? Disturbed, Shinedown and Nightwish certainly.  Sixx:AM and Rival Sons, surprisingly. But Iron Maiden stole the weekend, a band worthy of headlining any festival and getting better and better as the years go by.

Review and photos by Darren Griffiths

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Power Plays w/c 13 June 2022 (Mon-Fri)
IVORY SKIES – Bring Me Up (indie)
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SOLE SYNDICATE – Brave Enough (Scarlet Records)
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JAILBIRDS The River (indie)

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12:00-13:00 LONERIDER Sundown (Escape Music)
14:00-16:00 VANDERWOLF 12 Little Killers (Vandermax Music)

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