LEGIONS of rock fans descended onto Donington Park for three jam-packed days of rock music at Download 2014.
American rock stars Aerosmith closed proceedings on the Sunday with a set that included classics Dude Looks Like a Lady, Livin’ on the Edge, Jaded, Dream On and their Armageddon classic I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, which erupted the main arena.
Interestingly, front man Steve Tyler and Co had brought with them a Show Cam, allowing anticipating fans the chance to see the band prepare backstage by airing the footage on the big screen.
The main stage this year was dedicated to Download mega fan Stephen Sutton, the young man who died recently from cancer.
It was a fitting tribute and saw a variety of rock stars bracing the beautiful Friday sunshine to play some impressive sets on it.
First to play on the main stage was Miss May I and Crossfaith, but it was reggae metal rockers Skindred which drew most of the crowd.
Zakk Wylde, former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, had an amp-packed stage and delighted the crowd with some guitar-powered heavy metal with Black Label Society.
And later Rob Zombie brought his macabre act to the same stage with an impressive backdrop made up of many of the famous faces of horror including Frankenstein and King Kong. He even joked to the crowd that he prefers to play when it’s raining and wasn’t keen on sunshine as he hammered through classics including his 1998 hit Dragula.
Elsewhere in the arena, kings of punk Bad Religion brought plenty of energy to the Zippo Stage with my personal favourite track American Jesus, soon to be followed by The Offspring who delighted audiences by playing through their 1994 album Smash.
But there was one band that was plastered across many rock fans’ chests in the form of T-shirts and hoodies and that was Avenged Sevenfold – a band which have climbed the rock ranks and were given their first headline slot at Download.
And with plenty of pyrotechnics and great vocals from lead singer M Shadows, they were certainly worthy of headline status playing a mixture of old and new including The Beast and The Harlot, Seize the Day and Hail to the King. Despite a cloudy start to the day, Saturday saw the sun also beating down on Donington Park for another day of rock followed by the all-important England and Italy game, which was streamed live on the Zippo Stage after the final act.
American pop rockers Fall Out Boy set up the main stage nicely for Linkin Park who added a unique spin to the festival – very much as Metallica had done two years ago – by playing one of their classic albums Hybrid Theory.
But for me the real drawer on Saturday was Status Quo on the Zippo stage, a classic British band to close proceedings before the big game.
Their energy and musicianship was some of the best I ever seen at Download Festival, exciting the crowd with Caroline, Paper Plane, In the Army Now, Creeping up on You, Whatever you Want before a finale of Rockin All Over the World, Junior’s Wailing and Chuck Berry cover Rock and Roll Music / Bye Bye Johnny. And despite an England defeat in the first game of the World Cup, spirits were not dampened in arguably the best day of the Download Festival on Sunday.
Blues and rock combined with classic sets from Bon Jovi guitarist and solo artist Richie Sambora and Joe Bonamassa, who, in my eyes, draws many comparisons to Eric Clapton, with a fantastic extended version of Slow Train.
Yet again, spoof glam metal act and Download favourites Steel Panther managed to shock and entertain in equal measures with Community Property, Death to All But Metal and 17 Girls in a Row, where they managed to draw 17 half-naked girls from the crowd.
Alterbridge followed before American rock legends Aerosmith, fronted by Steve Tyler in an Indian headscarf, provided the perfect ending to a perfect festival.