More than 70,000 expectant punters always hoped it would be something special. First came the news that the final day had a Classic Rock flavour, then the big name headliners were confirmed and finally the baking hot sun arrived right on cue. If ever Download was going to deliver a day to remember then this day would surely be it.
In fact it was better than that. Way, way better. This is what watching live rock music is all about and while I admire those who packed in all three days without barely breaking into a sweat, it’s just as well I decided to forgo Faith No More and sidestep Slipknot.
Don’t get me worng. I love both bands live. But so many rock giants on one Super Sunday was just about all I could manage. There for the start and the stunning Stone Gods, I was still stage left at the end as Def Leppard geared up for a festival rousing encore.
Apart from Skin’s set and a third of the underwhelming ZZ Top I’m proud to say I witnessed every note of the main stage acts plus a fair chunk of Shinedown, a taste of Turbowolf and the set of the day from Steel Panther. It was a tough job but then someone had to do it. And whenever the heat became unbearable – which was most of the time – the limbs started to ache and the bar came calling there was that nagging feeling that if you missed any of Download’s final day you really would be missing out.
For classic rock fans it’s very, very unlikely such a monstrous bill will come together again at Castle Donington or anywhere else. People would have paid good money to watch same day sets from ZZ Top and Journey, let alone those two plus the mighty Whitesnake and the legendary Lepps. And if that killer quartet didn’t float your rock boat then the Gods, retro aces Tesla, southern metallers Black Stone Cherry and prog heroes Dream Theater guaranteed a package par excellence.
In the cold light of day you begin to wonder: did it really happen? Could so many A-listers be packed into one non-stop rock fest or was the heat playing tricks with our minds. And as for the heat. What on earth was going on there? British festivals are supposed to be knee high in mud, freezing cold and wet. On Sunday you could actually see the patterns on the rock chicks’ pretty Wellington boots and the hairy flesh on veteran bikers four times their age.
If Download chiefs could have bottled the festival’s final day it would be the formula of choice from here on in. A combination of quality crowd pullers, continental weather and an incredibly convivial atmosphere made for one of the most memorable music events of the decade and now the only question is this: how on earth do the powers that be top a truly magnificent show?
No doubt they’re working that out as we speak but it’s just too much to hope that Download 2010 will come anywhere close to matching this summer’s premier noise fest. If AC/DC and The Answer follow suit and pull off a result at Hampden Park later this month then I might well pack away my gigging boots for good and go out on a triumphant high. It really couldn’t get better than that…