For a while it looked as though the RUSHONROCK team would have to make do with a day at the Bedale Festival as an accident, roadworks and Barnesy’s typically poor navigation meant Donington seemed further away than ever.

With its shuggy boats and country pubs Bedale can probably put on a great event but there was no mention of Black Stone Cherry on the main stage… 

…and that, of course, was just one of the many reasons we pressed on to complete this year’s mission of rock. Booking into our Castle Donington B&B an hour before BSC were due to bring the main stage to life, we were out front gazing upon Chris and the boys just in time for what, was, essentially the band’s long awaited comeback.

Rustier than lighting rig left out in the Leicestershire rain, the saviours of hard edged Southern rock started with an unfamiliar whimper. It took a while for the train to start rolling as newies Killing Floor and Blame It On The Boom Boom sounded almost as ropey live as they do on record. But back in the comfort zone BSC pulled things round Rain Wizard, Maybe Someday and the brilliant Lonely Train. With match practice they’ll be fighting fit in time for an autumn tour with label mates Alter Bridge.

Then came Thin Lizzy. As the bloke who got away sipped soft drinks in his shades backstage (their loss, not his), the leftfield choice to fill Viv Campbell’s shoes, Richard Fortus, stepped up to roll out the riffs alongside Scott Gorham. And although he did a decent enough job it just doesn’t look like the right fit. Campbell warmed up for Def Leppard’s headline slot by delivering a pin sharp cameo during The Boys Are Back In Town and frontman Ricky Warwick once again revelled in the limelight. Lizzy hit all the right notes even if Fortus is still finding his feet.

And so to Alter Bridge. This time last year Myles Kennedy had a whale of a time fronting big mate Slash’s touring band and his dulcet tones washed over Donington with soothing efficiency. Twelve months on and back in his day job, Kennedy looked just a little bored. We knew where he was coming from. AB play quality rock without the personality. But they’re not the first band to have made a living out of that frustrating combo.

FM, by contrast, play quality rock with the personality. Steve Overland and co. might have looked more out of place on the second stage bill than a Poison fan at a Lawnmower Deth gig but it didn’t matter. For 30 minutes the tent was alive with melodic rock masterpieces offering the perfectly uplifting antidote to Alter Bridge’s fatuous bore fest.

The first noodles and tempura box of the weekend went down better than Brown Ale in the Toon and then, with dusk still some time away, all eyes turned to The Darkness. Like Black Stone Cherry before them, the saviours of soft rock struggled to shake of the shackles of their long hiatus but this was a set of two halves.

From the start Justin Hawkins slotted straight back into the role of lithe, endearing frontman but his brother and the other boys took a while to catch up. When they did the anthems rolled and the crowd responded. If this comeback is motivated by money then who cares? As always The Darkness entertained – never more so that when they fired their final salvo of glitter and toilet rolls into the gusty Donington wind.

As the temperature dropped and the rain fell Def Leppard had it all to do. People were cold, wet and wondering if a second headline set in three years would live up to expectations. It did.

Opening up with new tune Undefeated was brave but far from foolhardy – it’s a typical Leppard anthem which has already made a big impact Stateside. Retaining lame cover Rock On in the set is a travesty but rumours of Animal’s omission proved unfounded and the breakthrough single from Hysteria was the highlight of a slick and sexy set.

Wasted had the wow factor and won Leppard the best band of the day award. A late entry but worthy winners. The best of British are only getting better.

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*Look out for full reviews of your favourite Download bands all next week on RUSHONROCK.