Download Festival 2015
Review by Ellen Norvang
Photography by Ritchie Birnie
They say it rains in England. They say it rains at Download festival. As Slipknot’s frontman, Corey Taylor, likes to put it: Welcome to Down-pour 2015.
Friday starts off with lovely summery weather in order for the arriving guests to set up their camp without being soaked. Rumours has it on the social medias that Download’s new attempt to go completely cashless has failed and people had to go to bed hungry, thirsty and sober Wednesday and Thursday night. Yes, that is correct; you could not buy ANYTHING at the festival area with cold cash as your money had to be added to a little chip on your festival wristband.
Friday this problem has been resolved and the new cashless system might seem a bit odd and unnecessary with even more hassles (as in paying back remaining money on everyone’s card days after the festival is over). But none the less the queues for the bar are way quicker than the queues for the toilet.
Friday afternoon starts off with the Italian goth rockers, Lacuna Coil (3/5), on the main stage, who – just like any other of the male/female goth installations from the 90’s are heading in a far more rock direction with boring choruses. None the less, Cristina Scabbia, is a great singer and if only the band would get rid of her sidekick Andrea Ferro, the band would definitely have a lot better sound and image. He is not the greatest singer and does not really add any spectacular to the stage show. Although the band manages to fill out the big stage the sound is less fortunate and their latest material is simply not good enough which drags down the entertainment level.
The sun decided to go away and leave the weather duty to the rain. The pouring rain, that is. Dragonforce (4.5) has the “under the dry tent” slot at the Maverick stage and even if many decides to attend the show to hide from the rain they are given entertainment at a high level. Dragonforce are experienced musicians who know what they are doing and are blessed with by far the best sound at the whole festival. Let’s be honest here, they just don’t turn it up enough at Download. Heavy metal needs to be loud and considering there was no heavy blowing wind at this year’s festival the sound could have been a lot better at the stages out in the open air.
Dragonforce are as a surprising gimmick joined by the extremely hyped Babymetal on stage to perform a song from the Japanese rockers catalogue. This only adds to the fun level and Babymetal is something you either laugh at or really hate.
Judas Priest (4/5) has a list of hit songs newer bands can only dream of. Once you have experienced Judas Priest you know what to expect when it comes to their live shows. Rob Halford still has the strength to power through vocally and the entering on a motorbike on stage throughout the set is predictable yes, but extremely entertaining.
Even though the set list and the entertainment is high up there as great stuff the band seems to go with the routine and the concert never really stands out. It is great while it lasts, but quickly forgotten as soon as the band leaves the stage.
You might call them the house band of Donington as metallers, Slipknot (4.5/5), are mandatory inventory at Download. England loves the masked nu-metallers and according to an almost heartfelt Corey Taylor, Slipknot loves England right back. Despite the heavy rain the fans greeted Slipknot with open arms. Even when performing “Spit it Out”, Taylor as always, demanded the crowd to kneel down and jump right back up simultaneously. Not many people can demand 80.000 people to kneel down in the pouring rain. Slipknot are back in super form after releasing “5 – The Gray Chapter” and mourning the loss of the bass player, Paul Gray. The frequent visits from the band is a safety card for Download as it might seem too obvious, but never leaves anyone disappointed anyway.
Saturday was wet, muddy and gloomy. As about as bad as it can get weather-wise and the crowd divides into two groups: The ones who are prepared with wellies and rain coats and the ones who chooses to slide in the mud only wearing t-shirts and thin fabric converse trainers.
Parkway Drive (3/5) are a bunch of Australians who have to come up with a new kind of breakdown for every song they write. This must be hard and therefore it can seem like they just re-use every single riff and breakdown. It is a safe bet for huge crowds and lead-man, Winston McCall, seems humble and powerful at the same time as he carries the set from start to finish. And this is where Parkway Drive takes over the show. They manage to fill out the big stage by looking like a band that actually enjoys this and feels genuinely blessed by performing this afternoon. There is no rock star attitude going on here and the cover version of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” is not even necessary to get the audience going. Parkway Drive has the charisma and gratitude to deliver their own material with power and grace.
Rise Against (3/5) have a big gathering and even though they contain a lot of enthusiasm and clear love of playing on stage they are simply way more appropriate for a smaller stage than the main stage they were placed on. They come across as humble which is why a smaller stage would have created a lot more party atmosphere. The American punk rockers deliver music that doesn’t move or change throughout the years, but please a crowd that wants to sing along. What saved the band from drowning in the rain and their lack of power on stage was the singing along from the crowd that contained of a fan base that clearly was there to see the band because they were fans and not because of a hype. Rise Against may not have a strong hit catalogue like Blink 182 or other fellow punk rockers from the States, but they are the shy pendant that seems like the band that walked straight out of their parents garage after a band practice.
Faith No More (4.5/5) are back! But not to squeeze the lemon for more money. Re-union tours are fashionable, but Faith No More has new material in the baggage and proves that the energy and power, especially within frontman Mike Patton, is still there.
The stage setup is unusual, but none the less the brightest spot on this grey day. It is all white and there are flowers everywhere, as if heavy metal has gone zen for the next hour. This early evening the audience witnessed a band who looked like they enjoyed being on stage. A band that was cool, calm and collected – even if the unnecessary, but undoubtable one of the bands biggest hits, “Easy”, is added to the setlist. The set list on tonight show is almost perfection for both die-hard fans and the ones only familiar with the hit songs.
Marilyn Manson (3.5/5) have throughout the last couple of tours delivered performances that were somewhere near a disaster and he turned out to be a fallen anti-christ hero who could no longer deliver what used to shape him as an artist. This night was therefore a 50% risk of going through mediocre torture by watching him again.
Luckily Manson was in good shape tonight, and by being given the second largest stage in order to make room for Muse on the main stage he gathered the crowd for a more intimate gig. He was joking and even inviting Ice T on stage to deliver a few punch lines. A musical collaboration would have been more favourable.
Manson’s songs are quite diverse and his career includes songs that aren’t necessarily in the same genre. What they have in common is the entertainer himself. And while newer songs, hit songs from the middle of his career, like “Disposable Teens” and older songs like “Angel with the Scabbed Wings” doesn’t add a red thread to the set list and necessarily links together, Manson proved that he might have a few extra years in him. The lack of “Antichrist Superstar” shined through.
Sunday is the day most people’s body says “STOP, ENOUGH”. Sunday is also the day where the programme is booming with all the good stuff. The programmes is dominated by blasts from the pasts and it is clear to see among the crows walking to festival site what is going to happen tonight as the majority have plastered their faces with KISS make-up.
Billy Idol (4/5) might be approaching his 60’s, but he is in his best shape and form when he enters the stage Sunday afternoon. His time on stage is short which makes it impossible for him to actually deliver all of his hits. Cause the list is long and “Cradle of Love” is not even on the set list. The sound at the main stage is great during Idol’s set and this is by far one the festival’s most surprisingly good and entertaining gigs. Pure rock n roll without the embarrassing old rocker’s fall from grace.
Billy Idol is no longer punk nor heavy metal. He is, after decades, just himself, and this shows. There isn’t anyone like him on this year’s bill, and it is refreshing to witness dancing and singing along to a gentleman who manages to stay true to his own music.
If young kids ever need a lesson in how to deliver a proper rock n roll show – without the hassle of letting your fans wait for ages for you or witness washed up, drunk performances, well then they should watch Slash (3/5) in action. This is rock n roll for grown up delivered with a nerve and down to perfection musically. Slash will never be able to get rid of the “that dude from Guns N Roses” label and instead of walking away from it he embraces it by finishing off his show with not only a Velvet Revolver track, but “Sweet Child of Mine” and one of the biggest sing along tunes of all time, “Paradise City”. This makes the audience leave the gig with a more contempt feeling than if Slash just performed his own solo material and it is a smart move. He proves that he is much more professional than previous colleague, Axl Rose, and that he can carry on without actually relying on outdated material. The old tunes kinda just feels like a “thank you” to the audience rather than a look into a past that earned him his fame.
All female rock bands are rare. Download has had to dig up 90’s grunge rockers, L7 (4.5/5), in order to put females on the bill. Despite being blasts from the past L7 delivers one of the most crowd-pleasing gigs on the whole festival. The crowd sings a long, dances and crowdsurfs. The band is going at it to a point where the guitarist shoes have to come off. There might not have been as much nudity or rebellious behaviour this late afternoon at the Zippo stage as the band delivered in the 90’s, but delivered they sure did. If there is more to the band than this re-union tour only time will tell.
Motley Crue (3/5) is for many the reason why they are attending this year’s Download as this is one of the last chances to ever catch the band live on stage. The band signed an agreement last year that 2015 would be the year that the band went on their last your ever. The guitarist, Mick Mars’ health issues has for a long time been a well-known issue and the band do not wish to continue without him.
What fans witness on stage this early Sunday evening is a band known for their outrageous escapades in the 80’s and 90’s who have without a doubt changed quite a lot over the years. The bass-player, Nikki Sixx and the infamous drummer, Tommy Lee, are rockstars who delivers. Lead singer, Vince Neil, is another story. Here is a man who is no longer in shape and able to deliver the vocals 100%. He still got the voice, but he leaves out several words and sentences in order to catch his breath. The fact that he trips on stage just as the camera for the stage video monitors are on him just makes it even sadder to witness. Human errors, for sure, but the rock star quality are long gone for this man. When he delivers an awful version of the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK” it becomes almost unbearable to watch him on stage. Thank God for the two stage dancers to take focus away from the mess. The band has got the songs, but it might be a very wise choicer for the band to hang the guitars before this gets embarrassing.
Whoever stood out the horrible weather throughout the weekend got a price worth it at the end. The price for pulling yourself through the whole weekend, not being able to rest your body sitting down because, yeah where do you sit down in a field covered in mud, is spectacular.
KISS (5/5) takes the price as the most entertaining and best gig at Download 2015. KISS is all about entertainment and half of the experience is purely for the eyes only. From the first second we are bombarded with colours from the lightning that can fill even the most pessimistic human with pure warmth inside. The hottest band alive sure warms up the rainy soaked souls of Download and with a setlist like that (even if Crazy Nights was left out) and a pyro and fire work show like that the band proves they were worth sticking out 3 days in the rain for. There is so much pyro and fireworks at this show that will make most New Year’s Eves feel small and vulnerable. This is so choreographed down to the smallest detail when it comes to gimmicks for the camera and surprises that one might think if they are watching a musical or a concert. It doesn’t matter if you are far in the back or upfront – there will be something to watch.
Gene Simmons is flicking his tongue out like there is no tomorrow and Paul Stanley flies out on a wire over the audience’s heads. This is a show not to miss. It all finishes with a bombastic sing a long with “I was Made for Loving you”. What is not to love about these old glam rockers?!
One might wonder what is going to happen to the headlines at Download once the majority of this year’s bands retire. It is a fact that the headliners are old rockers with band members older than the audience’s parents. Does any of the newer bands have the power and ability to headline Download in the nearest future as the metal festivals seems to swap and re-use headliners each year, always counting on the classic bands that has been around for ages?