Maiden delivery at top rock festival

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DOWNPOURS at the Download festival have become quite predictable over the years but thankfully, apart from the odd shower, it remained rather nice at Britain’s top rock outdoor shindigs.

With 153 bands from all over planet Earth taking to the stage over the weekend it is impossible to give good viewing to even half that amount, yet still the faithful make this annual pilgrimage to Donington’s hallowed grounds.

Managing to catch Mastodon on the big stage was nice as the last time was in a smalltent at a festival in Holland. Seeing them work hard and getting to the next level is a good feeling.

With a festival billing this size it’s vital to check out some unknowns which included Nekrogoblikon and Empress in the Pepsi Max stage. Strangers to me they may have been, but they both managed to cram many thousands into this large blue canvas hording and, more importantly, kept them there. Both bands got audience participation, huge cheers, which in my book is a job well done.

Keen to check out British giants Thunder on the Second Stage, who sadly clashed with Motorhead on the Main Stage, the London fivesome opened with the popular Dirty Love and River Of Pain, which helped the tea-time slot go with a bang.

Traditionally over the years this window has always proved to invigorate crowds, thus boosting any band’s performance, which Thunder showed as they milked the crowd’s huge warmth that has amassed over their twenty odd year career. Quite simply, a brilliant performance.

Motorhead too had a large gathering and I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but I did think they slowed down Ace Of Spades a tad, which for my money made it better.

And was that the original drummer Phil Taylor who came on stage to say ‘hi’?

Queens Of The Stone Age may be a daft moniker, but tell that to the masses that saw them put in an hour plus set of quality tunes and a first class solid performance.

And then, the final moment of the day, the moment everyone had been waiting for as a World War Two fighter plane courtesy of R.A.F. Connisborough flew several times over Donington Park to huge, huge cheers, Iron Maiden marked their fifth headlining appearance and opened their set with Moonchild, Can I Play With Madness and The Prisoner.

This was a look back to past glories, but with the added bonus of modern technology giving the whole thing a 21st century makeover.

With 2 Minutes To Midnight keeping the pace high, Bruce took a moment to slow things down with a lovely speech about the efforts our armed forces in troubled countries go through. Where I was stood, you could hear a pin drop, which shows the respect the band has achieved over their illustrious career. Afraid To Shoot Strangers was the reason for passionate words, which the band delivered in splendid style.

As darkness drew in, we naturally got Fear Of The Dark, Iron Maiden, more flames and bangs than Bonfire Night and that was it. A great night by arguably Britain’s finest musical export, because not only are this lot huge here, they’re huge all over the planet and show absolutely no signs of slowing down yet.

And with Bruce signing off with the promise of at least one more show on these shores this year at London’s O2, and possibly a few more after that, it was a warm glow inside that helped us on our journey home.