Last weekend saw the Download Festival 2018 at Donington Park, and my annual visit to the circuit to listen to rock music rather than motor racing that usually takes me to the circuit. This year, the festival clashed with the BTCC round at Oulton Park, so rather than my normal three days at the festival, this year I was just there for one day.
Saturday’s headline act was Guns n Roses, who first made a name for themselves in the UK at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington in 1988 when they were the second act to take to the stage and were supporting Megadeth, Dave Lee Roth, Kiss and Iron Maiden. There was much excitement for Guns n Roses return to Donington, enhanced when the schedule showed a mammoth three and a half hour set for the band.
The band were introduced by a video playing for about fifteen minutes before they appeared on stage, right on cue at twenty past seven. The crowd were treated to some of the old favourites, like Welcome to the Jungle, Paradise City, Sweet Child of Mine, Live and Let Die, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and You Could Be Mine, all of which sounded fantastic and took a lot of people, including me, back to when Guns n Roses were the exciting new band on the rock scene. However, there were also a few songs that no longer sounded quite as good as Axl Rose’s voice has aged and matured with him, so Patience for example sounded different, and I’m not sure the cover of Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman was the best choice for the evening.
There were also lengthy instrumental sections, with Slash providing plenty of guitar solos, which certainly seemed popular. The show ended with an impressive firework display, and much as I enjoyed it and achieved an ambition not just of hearing Guns n Roses live, but hearing them at Donington, I couldn’t help but think a shorter, hour and a half show focusing on the songs that still sounded fantastic would have left an outstanding memory for all of those in the crowd.
Of course, one of the great things about music festivals is that it is not all about the headline act, and there were some other great shows through the day. Babymetal, the Japanese band, played the second stage early in the evening, and as always, they provided plenty of entertainment, energy and fun. For those who haven’t heard them, imagine some very heavy music with some J-Pop singers. Their stage show, complete with videos telling the story of “Metal Resistance Episode VII – The Revelation” and the seven metal spirits, is certainly unusual and memorable. There was a huge turn out at the second stage to see them, and it was clear why. Babymetal are always entertaining, and even if they sound a bit odd, they are certainly worth seeing live.
Thunder played during the afternoon on the main stage. I first saw Thunder in October 1992, playing in the Ulster Hall in Belfast with The Screaming Jets supporting them, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them since. I have yet to see a bad show by them. It is clear when you watch them about just how experienced they are at performing at live shows, and how good a job they do to keep the audience entertained. Danny Bowes, the singer, was sporting a Little Mix t-shirt, and kept the crowds entertained not just through the fantastic music but also with his little asides.
Even Sweep, best friend of Sooty, was bopping away to Thunder. You never quite know what you are going to see at any music festival, and there are certainly a few odd sights at the Download Festival every year…
One of the great thing about music festivals is the opportunity to see bands you don’t know and are surprised about just how good they are. For me, Download Festival 2018 was where I found out how good The Struts were. Bringing a glam rock type vibe to the festival, and providing plenty of entertainment, they made the most of their relatively early afternoon slot with boundless energy oozing from them. They talked about having come to Download as fans in the past and how fantastic it was to be on stage providing the entertainment this year. I hope they have the opportunity to be on the stage at plenty of big festivals to come.
I spend most of my time a gigs and festivals enjoying myself and not taking photos, gigs are better experienced than being witnessed behind the viewfinder of your camera, but here are a handful of photos from Download Festival 2018.