the best line-up is unleashed on Saturday at Download

Download 2011 review

published: Tue 14th Jun 2011

System Of A Down

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Donington Park, Leics, England MAP
£145 weekend (with 5 nights camping + £35), or £75 for a day ticket
daily capacity: 111000
last updated: Tue 7th Jun 2011

Saturday at Donnington brought with it a mix of strange weather and a very slow morning to get things fired up. But Skindred are always a band you can rely on to start the engines. Front man Benji Webbe emerged donning a Union Jack jacket, before launching through a newly tweaked Skindred set with the extra arsenal of their new album. But as always, Skindred do not fail to deliver at Download. Some bands are just cut out to play a festival, and can connect to the crowd somehow at a deeper level. Webbe continued to conquer once more today, just as he's done so many times in the past.

Big hit track 'Pressure' generated some of the biggest response along with a Tinie Tempah/Skindred mash up which the band found online. A surprisingly enjoyable addition to a solid Skindred set.

Over on the second stage, singer/songwriter Dan Reed delivered his 30 minutes in the spotlight. His first major festival appearance since his return to music back in 2009, Reed played a more acoustic and upbeat set than the norm for Download. A more soft and mellow experience, it's a solid show which was welcomed by most before him. A cover of Dio's 'Holy Diver' made a nice touch with its acoustic guitar twist.

But next up, no nonsense hard rockers Clutch were sure to blow away any melancholy straight out the rafters. Confined to a frustratingly short 30 minute set, Clutch wasted no time in getting on with things. Launching full speed into opening track 'The Mob Goes Wild', you couldn't have picked a better analogy for the crowd before them. Topping that off with a fantastic drum outro from sticks man Jean-Paul Gaster. His mesmerising drumming style which equates to nothing less than pure power and speed, rolled perfectly into second track 'Profits Of Doom'. Front man Neil Fallon's voice reverberated with such intensity around the hallowed Donnington ground, and swept up the audience along with it. Clutch delved into each corner of their back catalogue. From the classic 'Cypress Grove' to the more recent '50,000 unstoppable watts'. They effortlessly move from strength to strength. This was the first band of the weekend to truly nail an entire set. Keeping the fans enthused and animated for each and every minute. Just as on the album, a brilliant one-two punch of final tracks 'Electric Worry' and 'One Eye Dollar' brought the set to its criminally short close. Fallon asked “How's it going? Having a good time all the time right?” With Clutch on the bill, it's a guarantee. Bring on a UK tour asap. We need more of this, and soon.

Next up Dio tribute act Dio Disciples ploughed through 30 minutes of classic Dio magic. A tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio and his self-titled band, Front man Tim "Ripper" Owens did more than his fair share to hold his own. The ex-Judas Priest & Iced Earth vocalist brought his own strength to the legendary Dio tracks. A fantastic and passionate 30 minutes pass in brief moments, reminding us of times shared with Ronnie in the past, at the centre of our hearts.

Mr Big
Mr Big allowed me to cross off just another item off the list of things to see at a gig. It’s not every Download festival that you get to see a guitar being played with a plectrum attached to a power drill. Or a solo being played by teeth. Mr Big were exactly what they needed to be- a classic hard rock act, with the sense of humour and personality which truly enhances the experience. Classic hits such as 'To Be With You' did nothing but bring smiles to the faces of elated rock veterans.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, please welcome to the stage the best fucking rock band you have ever seen- Cheap Trick."

These words screeched out of the PA system to cheers and laughter as Cheap Trick emerged for their Download debut. The "American Beatles" as they've been referred to were full of life. Not letting a moment's quiet pass without a sly comment or another timeless hit. Highlights of the set came in the form of their biggest hits- 'I Want You To Want Me' and 'Surrender'. The latter providing the biggest sing along to the evening. Even including a 5 necked guitar! Comical, fun loving and genuinely happy to be playing tonight, Cheap Trick were a delight to watch.

System Of A Down
But back on the main stage, everyone was ready for tonight's main headline act. A strange feeling grew within the audience. A real feeling of desperation and excitement of the band which was soon to emerge. Production hitches of giant white curtains on stage whittled away precious minutes of set time, as crew ascended the giant stage structure in an attempt to rectify the issues. Boos echoed around Donnington Park as part of the giant curtain fell slightly down. But it didn't matter, soon after System of a Down was behind said curtain- blasting into the opening track 'Prison'. The curtain fell and the crowd erupted into cheer as System Of A Down moved like a juggernaut through a massive set list consisting of tracks such as 'Bounce', 'Cigaro' and 'B.Y.O.B'.

It's the sound that these four guys can make which was truly overwhelming. The live sound felt as a wall of noise was pushing every part of your ears to their limits. The bass ground shakily deep, yet not overwhelming. With the heavy thumps of John Dolmayan's bass drum hitting you deep in your chest. Topped with those unmistakable vocals of both Serj Tankian and shredder Daron Malakian. It was a sound matched by no other of the weekend. Not even close.

The crazy flurry of noises in tracks such as 'Kill Rock And Roll' were balanced perfectly with the melancholy of 'Lonely Day'. Huge tracks 'Chop Suey' and 'I-E-A-I-A-I-O' had tonight's audience in a total euphoric state. With each and every person in front of this stage just in total awe. And just as SOAD could wind build you up into feeling almost feral, they have that perfect ability to control the pace to exactly where they want it. It's a skill which tonight has proven against all the odds, why these guys can headline a festival. Why their music has become legend in itself, and why System are still the masters of their music which has inspired a generation whom will never ever forget them.

review by: Phil Davies

photos by: Luke Seagrave

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Donington Park, Leics, England MAP
£145 weekend (with 5 nights camping + £35), or £75 for a day ticket
daily capacity: 111000
last updated: Tue 7th Jun 2011

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