There are very few guitarists in the world of rock who, in their own right, can command a middle ranking berth on Download’s final day main stage.
There are fewer still who can pull off a set so diverse, so dazzling and so utterly at one with the spirit of Castle Donington’s past, present and future that they seem like the most natural figurehead for a world renowned event.
Slash, of course, was making his fourth appearance at the famous metal haunt and the former GnR hero, more than most, must feel at home treading the Download boards. But in this guitar hero’s case familiarity hardly breeds contempt – exactly the opposite, in fact. The more we see of this this magnificent musician, the more we marvel at his brilliant showmanship.
This year’s debut solo album is an absolute treat but there’s no way Slash can take every one of his special guests on the road. He’s plumped for the multi-talented Myles Kennedy and that, in itself, has proved to be a stroke of genius by the Velvet Revolver mainstay.
Kennedy can do Axl. He can do Stockdale. He can, of course, do himself and he could probably do Lemmy but on this occasion there was no need. The Motorhead man stepped up to the plate to sing Dr Alibi and there’s no doubt the original is likely to be the best on this growling, vitriolic slab of heavy rock.
Where Kennedy excels is fronting up the GnR back catalogue and his versions of Night Train, Rocket Queen, Sweet Child O’ Mine and Paradise City were so good they begged the following question: why don’t Slash, Duff and Matt recruit the VR reject to front a GnR band (in nature, if not name) if Axl persists in closing the door on any genuine reunion? People would pay good money to see a full Gunners set which didn’t depend on the band’s enigmatic frontman, his bad attitude and even worse timekeeping.
Back to the Slash/Kennedy partnership and their spine tingling collaboration Back From Cali was one of the festival highlights. Clearly the best song in a short but incredibly sweet set, we saw few songs which came close by any other band.
Just watching the famous curled hair, the carefully perched top hat, the vintage Les Paul and the self-confident grin working as one to such thrilling effect made Download 2010 an incredibly special event. Slash came here to conquer and pulled off a personal victory with consummate ease.
Why didn’t he do the solo thing before? Who knows? But we’re so glad he did it in the end.