A band synonymous with the Monsters Of Rock event of years gone by – and an act still riding high on the back of their best album for more than 20 years – is the perfect tool to inspire a tickets rush.
And with Sonisphere, Hyde Park Calling and High Voltage all stealing a march on Download, by announcing their big players first, the need to unveil AC/DC was pressing.
Yet what lies beneath the rejuvenated Aussie rock machine is largely disappointing. Them Crooked Vultures are a guaranteed draw and Wolfmother look like they mean business again after a prolonged hiatus.
Motorhead still deliver a mean metal set but Megadeth, in spite of their latest album, have much to prove as a live band after a series of below-par UK shows.
And is anyone really that excited about the Stone Temple Pilots’ reunion? A band of their age, they have yet to suggest they have a place at rock’s top table two decades down the line. And Scott Weiland has it all to do if he’s to replicate the peaks of his Velvet Revolver performances.
In fact without AC/DC – and they are, quite simply, a massve draw – the initial raft of confirmed Download bands are underwhelming to say the least.
A quick comparison with Sonisphere’s line-up to date proves the Knebworth event remains way out in front as the ‘must-see’ rock festival of the summer.
By throwing together Maiden, Rammstein, Alice Cooper, Anthrax, Slayer, Motley Crue and The Cult, the battle lines have been drawn. Even with AC/DC in their locker the pressure is on if you’re looking to deliver a competitive Download bill.
Of course there’s also the fact that last year’s Castle Donington shindig was possibly the best and most diverse to date. And the Classic Rock Sunday was a veritable tour de force with Leppard, Whitesnake, ZZ Top, Journey et al making for a magnificent ending to a three-day riff-fest.
Meeting last year’s high standards, coupled with seeing off the ever-stronger opposition, means Download bosses face their stiffest test to date.
But we are always told the big guns thrive under pressure. And organisers Live Nation will no doubt be working under the mantra of ‘anything they can do we can do better’.
It’s early days as far as Download’s line-up is concerned but AC/DC don’t make for a bona fide success alone. Add Kiss, Van Halen, Metallica, Europe and Machine Head to the mix and you’re suddenly talking a festival to remember. And a festival to keep Sonisphere on its toes.
Watch this space!