rock-o-the-northAm I dreaming or is this year’s Download finally harking back to its true Monsters Of Rock roots?

The premier metal festival of the summer has always tried to throw up as diverse an array of hard rocking big hitters as possible.

Yet the hair metal heritage acts have been few and far between. Rifle through a list of bands which played at the inaugural event back in 2004 and the flavour was very much nu-metal, industrial metal, alt metal and indie rock. Nothing wrong with that but you’d have been hard pressed to find a blues rock standard or a soft metal ballad. Most people who forked out for tickets that year would have baulked at the very idea…

A year later Black Sabbath and Velvet Revolver gave the event a more classic feel but even so the emphasis was on heavy shit, played without compromise. Again it suited the taste of the target audience and within the world of metal there was something for everyone.

Over the years Guns N Roses, Backyard Babies, Wolfmother and The Answer have sneaked their way into the Download psyche. And in 2008 Kiss marked a sea change in the festival’s emphasis with a headline slot – in the year Saxon brought the house (or the tent) down and the likes of Airbourne and Stone Gods proved a new generation of classic rockers was on the rise.

Even so if you’d have said Def Leppard, Whitesnake, ZZ Top or Journey would ever play Download I’d have laughed all the way to the latest showing of Anvil. And if you’d told me Anvil would be playing the greatest metal festival in the world I’d probably have died on the spot.

Incredibly all of the above are inked in for June 2009 at Donington – rock’s spiritual home and a place where memories of Scorpions, Rainbow, Gillan, Twisted Sister, Aerosmith, Cinderella and Van Halen live large. Hardly your head banging, heavy metal noise merchants.

But for me it was this week’s confirmation that Tesla had bagged a spot at Download which really highlighted a quite incredible shift in emphasis. Now regular readers of this site will know that the US band bagged top spot in the rushonrock records of 2008 with their brilliant return to form Forever More.

But Tesla have about as much in common as that first bill of download bands as Axl Rose has in common with Slash these days. They might be playing low down the bill and will probably pass unnoticed by the majority of Download devotees but this is where rock is in 2009 – equally able to embrace the classic rock generation of two decades ago as it is the modern greats of metal.

For me Download has finally become the perfect rock festival. And I’m just waiting for the dream to end…