Gig review: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Iron Maiden - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

A year ago a special pilot event at Download pointed the way for live music to return:  now in 2022 the UK’s biggest rock and metal festival was back in a recognisable format. It was the biggest sign yet that live music has returned to normal even if the shadow of covid is ever-present.

Download gets a bad rap in many circles, criticised against other domestic and international metal festivals for its sheer size, corporateness and repetitious line-ups, but interestingly  one of my friends attending his first Donington since the old Monsters of Rock days was blown away by the precision organisation and the lack of queues for bars and toilets.

It is also a festival that appeals to a wide range of tastes, of which classic rock is but a small part. But this year two of the three headliners were veterans – indeed Iron Maiden and Kiss were the top two on the bill when I first went in 1988- so the crowd had a notably larger number of older rockers this time.

Indeed without hopping too much from stage to stage it was possible to pick and mix and create a weekend line up of more recent acts but entirely suited to my more traditional tastes – with a slight drop in the number of bands on the main stages each day and thankfully few of the stage clashes that normally present such a dilemma.

DAY 1- KISS, AIRBOURNE, TEMPT, MYLES KENNEDY, KRIS BARRAS BAND, THEORY, WAYWARD SONS

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Friday’s action on the main (Apex) stage began with Wayward Sons, and I had unfinished business having missed Stonedead and their London show for differing reasons in the last year.. While part of the new wave of classic rock, they were one of the few over the weekend with links to the ‘old wave’ in mainman Toby Jepson, sporting a flat cap and a waistcoat emulated by guitarist Sam Wood.

They opened  with a decent song in ‘Feel Good Hit’ and the band were tight and crisp with Sam having a lovely tone on his Gibson but the combination of AC/DC esque riffing  and Toby’s more Mogg-esque writing and storytelling style has still never quite clicked for me.

Old favourites from their 2018 Download appearance such as ‘Don’t Wanna Know’ and ‘Crush’ sat alongside some newer songs of which ‘Big Day’ was the best. Appropriately a short but fast-paced set concluded with ‘To the End’ with a bit of audience participation, to get things off to a solid if unexceptional start.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

However any growing atmosphere was killed stone dead by Theory. For a while in the early 2010’s, they were personal favourites but I had rather lost touch and assumed the name change from  Theory of a Deadman had reflected some sort of musical metamorphosis.

However reassuringly the set was almost entirely those old favourites that mix self-loathing and misogyny with jaunty hooks and choruses, in openers ‘Lowlife’ and ‘Bitch Came Back’, and ‘Hate My Life’.

Alas, not only was the guitar sound  weedy but a festival appearance was the wrong fit for the very laconic approach of these Canadians, not the type to get in the face of the audience and at least pretend to be enthusiastic. The energy levels belatedly picked up with ‘Bad Girlfriend’ (borrowing the Cult’s ‘Fire Woman’ riff) but this was a disappointingly flat performance lacking in urgency.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

It was then a trip to the second (Opus) stage, the area itself big enough for a medium sized festival in its own right, but where the atmosphere is always a bit less frantic, for the Kris Barras Band. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them as a support or on a festival bill in the last few months, and post-pandemic they have accelerated their transition from a blues-based approach to more mainstream hard rock, so for the first time their music was Download-friendly enough to match Kris’ extensive tattoos.

Opening with old favourite ‘Hail Mary’ it was a similar set to their recent support with Thunder with new songs showcased heavily including ‘Dead Horses’, ‘These Voices’ and ‘Who Needs Enemies’, but with space for a couple of extra numbers in ‘Ignite (Light It Up)’, a bit flimsy but with a chorus made for live participation,  and ‘Devil You Know’.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Their biggest issue was a bottom heavy sound which rather drowned out both Kris’ vocals (which benefited from support from second guitarist Josiah J Manning) and his guitar playing. He is also a rather gruff character and I am not sure how well it would have gone down to hear ‘who bought the new album? not f—ing enough of you’.

However set closer ‘My Parade’ went down extremely well as the ‘fall into line or get out of my way,  don’t give a f—- what people say’ singalong would have appealed to a field of anti-establishment metal fans, so, ultimately this was a qualified triumph.

He was followed by Myles Kennedy. If there is a Guinness World Record for the most appearances  at Download, the singer surely holds it having fronted  both Alter Bridge and Slash here on multiple occasions, and personally this was consolation for missing out on his solo tour late last year.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

His outfit was a power trio but once again that bass heavy sound meant that  soulful and slightly anguished voice was rather drowned out.  Songs from latest album ‘The Ides of March’ included  opener ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ and ‘A Thousand  Words’  which was easily the most impressive, and there was even a trip to his pre-AB band The Mayfield Four which also included his drummer Zia Uddin , for ‘High’.

He also braved the noise of other stages to play Slash’s ‘World on Fire’ acoustically and there was a lot of bluesier material, much on a resonator style guitar, with slide prominent, notably on ‘Tell It Like It Is’ and a lengthy ‘In Stride’, featuring some audience call and response. Luckily this wouldn’t be the last I would see of his talents all weekend.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

My own preferred genre of melodic rock rarely gets much of a look-in at Download but one exception was rising New York City outfit Tempt, who the week before had impressed me at the Black Heart in London. Luckily the schedule allowed for a trip to the covered Dogtooth tent but as I ambled over with some food I could hear that a scheduling change had brought them on nearly half an hour early. I then put the supposed inability of men to multi task to the test as I combined joining in clapping and punching the air, making notes on my phone, taking pics and eating a tub of pulled pork topped macaroni cheese, all at the same time.

The set flew by at pace with  a quintet – ‘Hideaway’,’ Burn Me Down’, ‘Living Dangerous ‘, ’Camouflage’ and ‘Roses’  –that were all punchy with massive chorus hooks. In contrast ‘Golden Tongue’ saw the band and dapper bassist Chris Gooden in particular laying down some vintage late seventies west coast grooves.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

It was not just the music that stood out from the norm, with tousle-haired singer Zach Allen in a bright blue-green jacket and guitarist Harrison Marcello rocking a plum-coloured suit with a cut out of the wardrobe of Miami Vice. They closed with a cover (in its fast ‘Live Killers’ incarnation) of ‘We Will Rock You’ with Zach stunning people by holding himself out at the front of the stage and going crowd surfing.

Their performance benefited from a better stage, sound and lights than that London show and although the tent was far from full they made some new friends, including my companions for the weekend who were blown away by their first experience of them.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

It was then back to the second stage where Airbourne were second on the bill to Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. By rights the repetitive combination of AC/DC and Rose Tattoo riffs and the madcap antics of singer and lead guitarist Joel O’Keeffe should have worn thin by now, 14 years since I first saw them here, but as at Ramblin’ Man in 2019 they were exactly the right fun festival fodder, especially in the early evening slot where the atmosphere is often at its best.

‘Ready to Rock’ is the perfect opener with its ‘who-oh-oh’ rumbling chanting and ‘Back in the Game’ went down just as well before during ‘Girls in Black’ rode deep into the crowd on a roadie’s shoulders. As Myles Kennedy had earlier sung, ‘they say that a picture says a thousand  words’ and the joy on Joel’s face as he sauntered through a forest of raised hands spoke volumes for the sheer unbridled joy of rock n roll at its finest.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

It scarcely mattered that some of the material such as ‘Boneshaker’, ‘Breakin’ Outta Hell’ and ‘Live It Up’ (preceded by his drummer brother Ryan setting off what I think was an old fashioned airraid siren)  was highly ordinary.

Some of Joel’s traditional antics were absent- no speaker climbing nor setting up Lemmy’s Bar, and the beer thrown was in plastic cups rather than tinnies. However in that unmistakable barking voice (does he even speak like that at home?) he, better than anyone, captured our feelings at being able to do this after three years, in particular when he thanked the stage crews for their efforts.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

However the usual lengthy set closer ‘Running Wild’ featured a new routine, getting all the crowd to crouch down then rise up as one, which provided quite a sight though my friends and others of Saga-eligible years struggled to get up again quite as quickly. Terrific fun was the only way to describe it.

There was plenty of time to return to the main stage and venture near the front for the final appearance on UK soil of Kiss. Yes, we have of course heard that more than once before but the valedictory remarks on stage of Paul Stanley suggested this was pretty conclusive.

Kiss - Download Festival - 10 June 2022

The opening was naturally spectacular – after staring at giant inflatables of the band either side of the stage curtain, an intro tape of Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’ stoked the anticipation and after a video cam of the band allegedly running from dressing room to stage invited a suspension of disbelief, huge explosions marked the band coming down from high on individual podiums as the curtain fell.

The music was just as spectacular with an incredibly strong opening 1-2 of ‘Detroit Rock City’ and ‘Shout it Out Loud’ driving people crazy – other than those trying to spot how much was live after the notorious sound malfunction at a previous show had just come to light. The atmosphere notably quietened down for ‘Deuce’ though I was relishing one of my favourite Kiss numbers with Tommy Thayer doing a great job on the guitar solos.

This was Kiss’ fifth appearance at Donington in both its incarnations – whereas the first in 1988 was in the make up free era, and the 1996 reunion and 2008 Kiss Alive themed show concentrated on the original band, this was for me a more balanced career wide greatest hits.

Indeed we had three in succession from the eighties – ‘War Machine’ (unbelievable that one of Kiss’ heaviest numbers was penned by Bryan Adams) with Gene Simmons taking hold of a flaming stake, ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ where Paul’s vocals were suspiciously fresh and the always rollicking ‘I Love it Loud’.  Even ‘Say Yeah’ with its overly simple chorus grew on me.

‘Cold Gin’ was another highlight with the band sounding impressive while  ‘Lick it Up’ (described by Paul with typical lack of subtlety as ‘this is about something you put in your mouth’) has changed over the years, especially with its snatch of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, in contrast to the way most of their songs are delivered faithfully to the originals.

Kiss - Download Festival - 10 June 2022

While Gene appeared lively on numbers like ‘Calling Dr Love’, I was very surprised when Paul introduced ‘Tears Are Falling’, from that glammy eighties period where he seemed to be carrying the Kiss torch alone. Though it went down well it seemed a puzzling choice, as he did not sing large parts of it, while I was also more aware than before how, among a number of devices to mask his declining vocal prowess, both Tommy and Eric Singer unobtrusively filled out a lot of vocal parts.

You can carp about what enhancements there were to the live sound, or even the quality of the material (‘Psycho Circus’ a case in point) but a Kiss show has always been about more than that. Solos that would be boring in any other band’s hands were a vehicle for more stage show spectaculars, then the inevitable set pieces arrived, beginning with Gene chewing his blood capsule and being hoisted high during ‘God of Thunder’.

Kiss - Download Festival - 10 June 2022

Paul then sailed out on a pulley to the mixing tower and delivered ‘Love Gun’ from there, and for good measure ‘I Was Made for Loving You’ which went down extremely well, before another undisputed early Kiss classic in ‘Black Diamond’ was drawn out to its limit, ending in a welter of explosions.

The first encore saw a piano wheeled out for Eric to do his Peter Criss on ‘Beth’, then Paul spoke of the days when they put everything into following up ‘Kiss Alive’ with a set of anthems on ‘Destroyer’, and in a change from previous UK setlists they slipped in a lively ‘Do You Love Me’ complete with balloons released from the stage.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

But there could only be one climax, ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ with a carnival atmosphere as the pyrotechnic explosions got even louder and industrial quantities of confetti were pumped from the stage. As we headed out to the strains of ‘God Gave Rock n Roll to You’ it summed up perfectly not only both what we have missed for the past three years, but also the larger than life, spectacular showmanship that belongs to an era which sadly we may not see again.

DAY 2- IRON MAIDEN, SHINEDOWN, MONSTER TRUCK, THOSE DAMN CROWS, DIRTY HONEY

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Day two opened early with a solitary trip to the second stage for the UK debut of Dirty Honey, the latest hotly tipped band to emerge from California. First impressions were that like both Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet, they channel a retro spirit both in their looks and musical style while Marc LaBelle had a very Robert Plant-like tinge to his high-pitched vocals.

‘Gypsy’ got things off to a flying start, while ‘California  Dreaming’ was the most impressive song of a set which also featured the likes of ‘Break You’ and ‘The Wire’. ‘Another Last Time’ was a slow and bluesy ballad where the influence of the Black Crowes, who they have been supporting in the USA, came to the fore and the final song of a set that had flown by in ‘Rolling 7s’, with a catchy refrain of ‘need a little loving’, owed more to an Aerosmith groove. While offering nothing new, they pulled it off with swagger and style and are clearly a band we will be hearing a lot more of.

Those Damn Crows - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

It was back to the main stage- where in a Download first the action was running significantly late-  for the rest of the day, starting with one of the bands for whom the  timing of the pandemic was particularly galling in Those Damn Crows, who were on the verge of a major breakthrough with the release of second album ‘Point of No Return’. This was my first opportunity to catch them since 2019 though their festival and touring schedule is one of the busiest of 2022.

What originally drew me to this band, who would not normally be my natural musical bedfellows, was the remarkable on stage energy and charisma of singer Shane Greenall, and the setting did not faze him as he prowled the stage like a caged tiger, proudly proclaiming his Welsh pride and confident enough to go down the pit area between the two sides of the crowd. While his band members were more low key, they played with impressive efficiency.

Those Damn Crows - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

Songs like opener ‘Who Did it’ and ‘Blink of an Eye’ have that big widescreen sound of an Audioslave, Shinedown or even Foo Fighters. ‘Sick of Me’ with the added offstage sounds of some modern keyboards,  and the big hooks of ‘Sin on Skin’ and ‘Go Get  It’ particularly impressed.  However his stage presence gave an alchemy even to some of the numbers that were solid rather than spectacular.

They closed with signature song ‘Rock and Roll Ain’t Dead’ and though the song structure is an unusual one, the rumbling ‘who-oh-oh-oh’ chanting is perfect for a festival anthem. It concluded  an absolute triumph which augurs well for a progression up the bill in future as one of the few bands whose approach lends itself to bigger stages.

They also provide a challenge for Monster Truck to follow, and one which will be repeated when the two tour together this autumn. However the Canadians are now seasoned Download regulars and made an excellent start with a couple of old favourites in ‘Don’t Tell Me How to Love’ and ‘Old Train’.

Monster Truck - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

I had the impression when I first saw them that they were on the sludgy stoner rock side of things, but over the years they seem to have moved closer to the classic rock retro mainstream- indeed the way the keys of Brandon Bliss provided an undercurrent to forceful singer Jon Harvey’s thudding bass even reminds me a little of Uriah Heep.

They took the bold (or in a festival sense foolhardy) step of playing several yet to be released new songs, including ‘Golden Woman’ and ‘Live Free’, while ‘Country Livin’ had a Skynyrd or Blackberry Smoke feel  to take them even further away from their roots. ‘For The Sun’ was distinctly bluesy but fortunately there was more familiar material to end in ‘Sweet Mountain River’ and ‘The Lion’.  After thinking when tour dates were recently announced,  ‘no, seeing them at Download will be enough’ I was tempted to change my mind after this quietly impressive performance.

Shinedown - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

Next up for me was another Download stalwart in Shinedown, who are used to playing big venues in  America and this showed in their stage craft which, almost arrogantly, had no need even for the logo backdrop that the majority of bands used. It is a tradition of Download that Live Nation release winter tour dates for many of the festival acts there and they were one such, leaving me wondering whether this would be sufficient or whether I could resist the temptation to see a headline show.

They opened with ‘The Saints of Violence and Innuendo’ from their yet to be released album ‘Planet Zero’, Brent Smith marching across the stage in serious fashion and barking out some staccato, semi-spoken vocals. On ‘Devil In The Next Room’, with its ‘about to get heavy’ chorus and ‘Cut the Cord’ it struck me how their music has changed over the years, not necessarily for the better in my opinion, with relatively little guitar amidst his powerful vocals, the big drum sounds of Barry Kerch and assorted loops and synths.

The singer, whose ‘turn to your left’ shtick remains unchanged, has an earnest manner and  comes over as a cross between a life coach and a US platoon drill instructor, but he and the band deserve credit for addressing serious contemporary topics, as evidenced by another new song in the title track of the new album.

‘Get Up’ with a piano intro from bassist Eric Bass (sic) is typical of their recent foray into modern pop values, but something clicked and I progressively got into the set, the huge hooks of ‘Unity’ and its ‘put your hands in the air’ chorus, and another worthy message in ‘Bully’, while Brent got the crowd jumping up and down at the start of ‘Enemies’ and I enjoyed ‘Monsters’  more than I expected to.

Shinedown - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

His stentorian vocal delivery of the ballad ‘Second Chance’ was unmatched all weekend, and the momentum was firmly with them as crowd favourite ‘Diamond Eyes’ (boom-lay-boom) that rolls all their various influences into one song, led into the brutality of closer ‘Sound of Madness’.

So ultimately the verdict was that not only was the headline tour a must but in many ways they might have been the perfect second on the bill to Maiden, who they supported on the Book of Souls tour. As it was that honour fell to veterans The Deftones. I went for food during their set but caught the last half hour, manoeuvring into a decent place near the front for Maiden.  I can’t pretend I enjoyed it but was surprised how many of the songs seemed more inspired by the electronic sounds of later Depeche Mode or Radiohead than the alternative metal I had assumed, at least before a couple of shoutier old favourites finished the set.

Iron Maiden - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

Over 40 years into their career there is still no bigger draw at a metal festival than Iron Maiden. However Download 2022 found them at a crossroads. When their appearance was originally announced in late 2019, it was a fitting finale to the ‘Legacy of the Beast’ which had toured the UK in 2018 and in my view was the finest I have ever seen Maiden in over 35 years of following them. However since that date they released a new album in ’Senjutsu’ which was not only critically acclaimed, but the band made noises that the prospect of playing the album in full at some point appealed.

In the event they reached an uneasy compromise. So while passing the time with some classic early eighties metal  over the sound system we saw a stage being erected of oriental-style pagodas, and the set opened with the title track of the new album,  Bruce Dickinson with his greying hair in a top knot battling with Eddie as a samurai style warrior. The song was very far from immediate but with an acoustic guitar intro from Adrian Smith, ‘Stratego’ was a distinct improvement and the gig really came to the boil with ‘The Writing On The Wall’, the way people joined in suggesting that it will become a Maiden live favourite beyond the lifetime of the album.

Iron Maiden - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

However at that point with Bruce saying ‘excuse us while we change house’  there was a brief interlude where the crews dismantled the ‘Senjutsu’ stage before our eyes to reveal the church-themed ‘Legacy’ stage. It was a very  British ‘make do and mend’ approach , as Kiss would never have let the mystique behind the curtain be revealed in that way.

The rest of the set was a truncated and reordered version of that tour, surprisingly starting with ‘Revelations’ which is one of my all-time Maiden favourites, not least as it shows the influence of Wishbone Ash on Steve Harris’ songwriting in the twin lead solo of Dave Murray and Adrian and its combination of quiet and faster passages. Nevertheless during one of the latter my appreciation was interrupted by the crowd surging forward to form a small circle pit which I sidestepped.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Bruce then said words to the effect of ‘the last three years have been a bit s*t, but that ends here’, and that lent an extra poignancy, if any were needed,  to ‘Blood Brothers’. On a musical level it was encouraging to see Janick Gers, who can often play third fiddle to his guitar partners, shining on the celtic-themed guitar parts.

As with the original tour the joy was in hearing some classics which have been rarely played over the years complete with props, Bruce in a hooded cloak at the start of ‘Sign of the Cross’, which he made his own and featured lengthy but enjoyable guitar interplay between Dave and Janick, and a rollicking ‘The Flight of Icarus’ in front of a giant backdrop  of the eponymous winged character.

Iron Maiden - Download Festival - 11 June 2022

It seemed the set had hardly begun but already we were into the ‘home straight’ of traditional live favourites, beginning with ‘Fear of the Dark’, Bruce prowling the stage in Victorian villain costume and the circle pit near me in full swing with a ringleader orchestrating the movements. The pair of what I think of as Maiden’s quintessential songs in ‘Number Of The Beast’ and ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ seemed to fly past in an instant before ‘Iron Maiden’ closed the set with a hologram of a giant mythical beast poking out of the backdrop in scary fashion.

If the set had seemed a tad short the encores more than made up for it and the quality just got better and better. Moved from its usual position in the set, ‘The Trooper’ had the crowd going crazy while Bruce indulged in a sword fight with a giant Eddie in their matching red tunics, while the way that ‘The Clansman’ gathers momentum has made it an established fan favourite as well as another  Blaze-era tune that Bruce has made his own. There could barely be anyone in the 80,000 odd crowd that was not singing along to ‘Run To The Hills’ which was a suitable set closer, or so I thought.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

However there was one more classic moment I’d forgotten about, as the life sized replica spitfire dangled overhead and after a recording of Churchill’s speech, on stormed a goggle wearing Bruce to lead a fast and furious version of ‘Aces High’ that had opened the original run of ‘legacy’ shows. In my opinion a legacy of these tours is that it should be permanently restored to the set.

With a set list to die for, the best sound (at least from my vantage point) I’ve heard at a Maiden show in some while and their singer in arguably the best voice of his whole career, it was no wonder I and others were joining in with the strains of ‘always look on the bright side of life’ as we left the arena.

DAY 3- MYLES KENNEDY, THE DARKNESS, VOLBEAT, TREMONTI, MASSIVE WAGONS, POWERWOLF

The Sunday was an opportunity to take things a little easier after the exertions of getting to the front for the previous two night’s headliners, but there was still plenty to enjoy and sample a few less familiar (to me)bands. One such were Powerwolf who a number of friends have really got into, and whose presence on the main stage was timely as that whole Euro power metal scene has been oddly underrepresented at Download over the years.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

All covered in various degrees of warpaint and battle fatigues, as with many German bands there is a knowing humour around their daftness. Singer Attila Dorn’s multi-octave voice was extremely impressive and he constantly worked the crowd including one chant that seemed to borrow the melody of fellow countrymen Kraftwerk’s  ‘The Model’!

It’s hard not to warm to a band who can name a song ‘Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend’ and it helped even further that it had the catchiest hook of the set.  Some of the recurring themes became a little repetitive  (‘Blood for Blood’  and closer ‘We Drink Your Blood’ by way of examples) but it was easy to see why they have built such a large cult following.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

It was back to the second stage for a while for a pair of bands starting with new wave of classic rock darlings Massive Wagons. I’ve had mixed experiences of them in the past year- they absolutely owned Stonedead festival but a support to The Darkness was oddly flat. Fortunately on this occasion they atoned with a trio of some of their better and more memorable songs- the Rick Parfitt tribute ‘Back to the Stack’, ‘Billy Balloon Head’ and ‘Banging on Your Stereo’.

Singer Baz Mills, sporting a checkerboard jacket, culottes and long socks that made him look like a cross between a chef and Rick Nielsen, was as hyperactive as ever and made full use of a dais on each side of the stage, even if his fast-paced high-pitched patter was not always comprehensible.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

I read over the weekend words of wisdom on another festival’s forum that festival crowds just want to see a band having a good time and respond in kind and so the Wagons were onto a winner. They also played a new song but ironically given that it boasted a more mature and accessible musical arrangements, it’s very title ‘F**k the Haters’ seems to preclude radio play.

The music is loud and unsubtle and in the case of ‘Generation Prime’ almost punky, yet Baz’s t-shirt saying ‘eat pies and talk about men’s mental health’ summed up the sides of the band. Many of their songs are humourous – the call and response (‘I say keema you say naan, I say rogan you say Josh’) of ‘The Curry Song’ being a case in point- yet others, such as ‘Nails’,  address bigotry, bullying and other forms of human vulnerability.  A perfect live anthem ‘In It Together’ closed probably the best set I have seen yet from the Lancastrians.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Next up was an altogether more serious minded proposition in Tremonti as eponymous guitarist Mark became the second Alter Bridge member to grace this stage this weekend ahead of their main band releasing a new album and touring this winter.

Despite a low-key, hoodie-wearing stage presence, he is a more than decent singer in his own right and songs like ‘My Last Mistake’ and ‘A Dying Machine’ some of the songs are not dissimilar to his parent band, albeit heavier and less memorable, while the title track of latest album ‘Marching In Time’ was a brooding epic.

Ballad ‘The First The Last’ and the heavier ‘Another Heart’ had a commercial edge and it was easy to see how they might have been US hits around the millennium in the hands of previous band Creed, while a frantic, though still just melodic, ‘Wish You Well’, demonstrated his professed love of old-school speed and thrash metal.

After watching Baroness from afar and enjoying some of their twin guitar passages, the songs less so, I headed to the main stage one more time for Volbeat. I’d not seen them since Download in 2013, since when they have not only grown in popularity to the extent they were third from top of the bill, but have by many accounts moved in a more mainstream direction.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

They opened with ‘The Devils Bleeding Crown’ and though ‘Pelvis on Fire’ was like a rockabilly Motorhead, the likes of ‘Temple of Egur’ and ‘Lola Montez’ had catchy melodic hooks. Whatever your musical perspective their songs are fun and accessible, and they meld into metal influences from fifties rock n roll and even Johnny Cash (in the form of ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’). Singer Michael Poulsen also has that low-key and archetypally Scandinavian relaxed likeability.

Even the Metallica-ish ‘A Warriors Call’ with its ‘get ready to rumble’ battle cry segued into the old Dusty Springfield and Tourists cover ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’. ‘Rose’ was one of a couple of songs  which reminded me of what the Offspring might be like if they were tattooed Danish greasers rather than OC punks.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

On both ‘Wait a Minute My Girl’ and ‘Die to Live’ they were even joined by  guest sax and keyboard players looking like extras from an eighties ZZ top video, though ‘Seal The Deal’ and ‘The Devil Rages On’ were closer to the metal I was expecting.  Their final song ‘Still Counting’, which started with an almost reggae beat before becoming significantly heavier, summed up the variety of a diverse and very enjoyable set.

While people moved in for Korn, I went in the other direction back to a rapidly filling second stage for The Darkness. There was a surprise as Justin Hawkins took to the stage with a substantial haircut and sporting a pink cowboy shirt and matching slacks.

The music was reassuringly familiar though. With only a short set to play with, recent album ‘Motorheart’ was largely overlooked other than the celtic-tinged ‘Heart Explodes’ and instead it was straight into old favourites with a 1-2 of ‘Growing on Me’ and ‘One Way Ticket To Hell’ that could scarcely have been bettered, followed by what Justin said was brother Dan’s favourite riff in ‘Givin Up’.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Though it is nice to see them making a steady stream of  new music, after crashing and burning first time round,  the rather disjointed songwriting of  ‘Japanese Prisoner of Love’ really suffered sandwiched between the ‘Permission To Land’ favourites in the power ballad ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ and ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’.

With some time in the set still to go I was quite surprised to hear Justin say they were about to play their biggest hit and he broke down in great detail the structure of the song and where people were expected to jump and go crazy. It was a moot point whether  people would have needed any encouragement to do so anyway for  ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’,  surely one of the best known and most-loved rock songs of Download’s lifetime.DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

I was puzzled though,  both why they ended their allotted 50 minute slot five minutes early, and that they did so – channelling Slade’s famous 1980 Reading Festival show – with their seasonal song ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’. However the reaction suggested I was in a minority in finding this peculiar.

The headliner was a band who similarly divide opinion. I must admit the Steel Panther joke wore thin for me long ago and by rights the ~#metoo movement should have spelled their final death knell. Yet this would have been a minority view at Download- as I left the second stage site, I have never seen it quite so packed with even the walkways at the back impassable. I suspect for most, other than confirmed devotees of the main stage headliners Biffy Clyro,  they were a more entertaining and less challenging end to the weekend, and the main part of the arena was correspondingly almost deserted.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

I had one final appointment which was Myles Kennedy’s second set of the weekend in a packed Dogtooth tent. If that Guinness record wasn’t his already, then it was now. It had been billed as an acoustic performance but the stage set up suggested otherwise and indeed as his three piece came on he rather sheepishly explained that they had come to the conclusion such a set would be a little out of place.

Kicking off this time with ‘Get Along’, many of the songs were the same as Friday’s set albeit with better sound but there were a few changes. ‘Haunted By Design’ had a long guitar solo in fifties rockabilly style while the one acoustic song was one of those uplifting Alter Bridge ballads in ‘All Ends Well’.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

The melodies of ‘Songbird’ were nothing less than marvellous and he ended a perfect coda to the weekend with ‘In Stride, ’ a lengthy  workout with plenty of slide and with atypical flamboyance, he darted from one side of the stage to the next to pose like a blues rock guitar hero.

Download 2022 was a triumph not just on musical grounds  with some memorable performances but on other levels- the line-up pretty much held, it was dry and sunny for long periods, and it somehow seemed more relaxed and less edgy, with the a-hole quotient notably down on previous years, so relieved were people to be back in the saddle.  With the news that next year’s 20th anniversary festival will be extended to four days, speculation was mounting what special acts might be in store but for sentimental reasons this one will be hard to top.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, Donington Park, Leicestershire, 10-12 June 2022

Review and Photos by Andy Nathan





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Power Plays w/c 8 August 2022 (Mon-Fri)
BORN LOST Take Time (Mouthpiece) (Revolver Records)
JAIME KYLE Driving With The Brakes On (Conquest Music)
SCARLET DORN Born To Suffer (SPV Recordings)
HOLDING ABSENCE Coffin (Sharptone Records)
TYRANNOSAURUS NEBULOUS Get Some (Echoed Past Records)
KROOKED TONGUE When The Beaches Bleed (indie)
SKYPILOT Knifed On The Beach (The Distortion Project)

Featured Albums w/c 8 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 LESSMAN VOSS Rock Is Our Religion (Atomic Fire Records)
12:00-13:00 H.E.A.T. Force Majeure (earMUSIC)
14:00-16:00 THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS A Very Unusual Head (indie)



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