Download Festival 2013 Review: Saturday – An Honourable Reign

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Iron Maiden on stage at Download 2013
Iron Maiden: Not smooth sailing

Saturday at Download tends to roll round faster than you think it will and 2013 was no exception. No sooner had we all enjoyed Slipknot’s excellent set the previous evening (and some partying afterwards) then it was time for round two with Iron Maiden and the many other excellent bands appearing on the middle day of the 2013 Download Festival.

(If you haven’t read part one of our Download 2013 coverage – a review of the Friday, or Matt’s special report into the whole festival with “The Matt Report”, then we’d advise you to check out both on the link below. If you have, then read on for the lowdown on Saturday….)

Download Festival 2013 Review: Friday
Download Festival 2013: The Matt Report

With another full day ahead, kicking off Rocksins’ Saturday were the excellent Young Guns (7.5). The last year and a half have been monumental for Young Guns, with the release of their acclaimed album Bones, sold out UK tours, inroads made into America and the crowning achievement, having the song “Bones” being one of the theme songs for Wrestlemania. This is a band with serious momentum and that was reflected in an energetic, natural performance on the Donington stage.

Young Guns on stage at Download 2013
Young Guns: Headed for the top

Frontman Gus Wood was not quite as full of bravado and banter as he has been on other occasions, but he led by example with a minimum of fuss, charging around the stage as if his life depended on it. Songs such as Dearly Departed, I Was Born I Have Lived and the obligatory Bones elicited louder responses with every song that passed. Young Guns are a pleasure to watch live and have all the ingredients to be leaders of the UK rock scene for a long time to come. Much loftier positions on the Download line-up await in future years.

From a band who have had plenty of mainstream success to an underground favourite who have made a comeback in recent years, The Pepsi Max Tent afforded certain members of Rocksins the chance to catch Earthtone9 (7) in the flesh for the first time. Numerous others must have had the same experience, because the tent had overflowed by the time they took to the stage and rattled through a very efficient half hour set. It would have been helpful to be slightly more familiar with their back catalogue but Earthtone9 offered a thoroughly enjoyable show and come highly recommended.

When the schedule for Download 2013 was announced, one slight concern was the prospect of doom metal veterans Katatonia (8) playing outdoors in the middle of the afternoon, as their music is not exactly the ideal accompanyment for a sunny early Summer day. It was quite enjoyable then (for once) that just as the Swedes took to the stage, a swirl of dark cloud cover formed overhead with a light smattering of rain as they broke into opening song Dead Letters. It was appropriate, atmospheric and definitely added to the experience.

Katatonia on stage at Download 2013
Katatonia: Made for the rain

Katatonia themselves were on fine form, with songs such as Forsaker and the ever popular July going down a storm (sic) with the sizeable crowd who had chosen to watch them over Mastodon. Jonas and the rest of the band seemed genuinely touched by having such a large crowd present and a cracking rendition of regular set closer Leaders rounded off a performance that can only be faulted for not having more than half an hour allocated to it. If you haven’t seen Katatonia before, make sure you change that.

Katatonia’s Setlist was:

Dead Letters
Forsaker
Buildings
My Twin
Lethean
July
Leaders

Having having felt vindicated in our choice of band, Rocksins then legged it over to the main stage to catch what remained of Mastodon’s (7.5) set. The level of expectation surrounding Mastodon these days is so high but judging by the enormous throng of people headbanging in accompanyment to Curl Of The Burl as we arrived it was evident their standards had not dropped. This fact was confirmed shortly afterwards by a stupendous rendition of “Blood & Thunder”, which has become the band’s “Enter Sandman” moment. They did not finish with it however, finishing up with the atmospheric Sparrow, allowing the masses to slowly drift away with high degrees of satisfaction. A position higher up the line-up next time would be much more fitting for a band who can seemingly do no wrong.

Mastoson on stage at Download 2013
Mastodon: Progtastic as always

Grunge legends Alice In Chains (5) were next up and like Mastodon, they carried a high degree of expectation over their first Download Festival performance since 2006. Unfortunately, they were not able to hit the high levels of the band who had preceeded them and were somewhat disappointing. Some of the classic material hit the spot but on this occasion William Duvall did not seem equipped to hold the attention of such a large crowd and Jerry Cantrell, sporting a greying haircut shorn of his traditional long locks added to the impression that Alice In Chains were treading water rather than giving the kind of commanding performance their fans know they are capable of.

Having arrived at a packed Pepsi Max Tent just in time to witness latest dose of UK metal to hit the various Download Festival stages, Bury Tomorrow (9.5) emerged to a thunderous roar and treated it in kind by launching into their biggest song, Lionheart, straight from the off. Circle pits broke out across the length of the tent as Dani Winter-Bates marshalled the Bury Tomorrow faithful like a man possessed, and buoyed by the encouragement of the other band members, this carnage would not cease for the bands’ entire half hour long set.

Bury Tomorrow on stage in the Pepsi Max Tent at Download 2013
Bury Tomorrow: Laid waste to The Pepsi Max Tent

Following the lead set by Hang The Bastard approximately twenty four hours previously, Bury Tomorrow delivered the performance of their lives. The sound was flawless, the band’s energy was infectious, and the dual vocals of Dani and clean singer Jason Cameron were note/growl perfect. The Union Of Crowns has been hugely important, as it has provided Bury Tomorrow with a whole album of songs perfect for these kinds of settings. An Honourable Reign was belted back at the band by every single member of the crowd and Knight Life upped the chaos level even further. The only complaint that can be levelled against this performance is that half an hour wasn’t nearly long enough. Absolutely fantastic.

Bury Tomorrow’s Setlist was:

Lionheart
Sceptres
An Honourable Reign
You & I
Knight Life
Royal Blood

Any act following that performance would have a hard job so it many respects it was good that the next act was very different from Bury Tomorrow (and from anything else). Devin Townsend (8) is of course a one of a kind, both in talent and as an individual, and Rocksins counted ourselves very lucky to get a position close enough to the Jagermeister Acoustic stage to actually hear him. As is standard with Devin, he held the audience in the palm of his hand from the second he spoke, keeping up a comedy sub-text the whole way through his set about having Motorhead as background music (as they were on the main stage at the time) and also competing with the Red Bull Tent when the next band started in there as well.

Devin Townsend on stage ar Download 2013
Devin: Master of ceremonies as always

Humour aside, Devin armed with just an acoustic guitat is as mesmerising as he is with his full band. Ah-Ih was the melancholy side of Devin at his finest. Other songs such as Hyperdrive and Juular were note perfect delivered with style as only Devin Townsend can. The largest complaint we can offer against the performance is that (again) it wasn’t long enough, and that there was no acoustic version of Lucky Animals, a prospect we had long hoped for.

Due to one of the weekend’s worst clashes, we arrived at Jimmy Eat World (7.5) a few songs into their set (courtesy of their overlap with Mr Townsend) but there was an enormous crowd present who were very happy as the Arizona natives launched into A Praise Chorus upon our arrival. Jim Adkins and co were on fine form, letting the music do the talking for the most part, along with the occasional statement of how grateful they were to be playing to such a big crowd (a true statement as Jimmy Eat World must have had one of the largest crowds at the Zippo Encore stage all weekend).

Jimmy Eat World on stage Download 2013
Jimmy Eat World: Back to their best (minus the sound)

The huge crowd lapped up songs from across the Jimmy Eat World back catalogue, with the likes of Big Casino, Pain and Bleed American (Salt Sweat Sugar) all going down extremely well, before the big finish of Sweetness and The Middle roused one of the loudest cheers of the day. The only downside to Jimmy Eat World’s excellent performance was that the sound was so quiet! Even within reasonable proximity to the stage it was at times very hard to hear them and so Jimmy Eat World would have scored higher but for their sound issues.

It’s difficult to know where to start when describing the legendary Iron Maiden’s performance (5.5). Their opening, involving a Spitfire by kind permission of the RAF is one of the single coolest things a British metal fan is likely to see, ever. After such a beginning, it is natural to wonder if the only way from there was down, and sadly on this occasion that proved to be the case.

The sound played a large part in this; For a band of Iron Maiden’s stature and importance, the sound was absymal. At times, Bruce Dickinson couldn’t be heard at all. At other points, Bruce was all that could be heard and at other times still the sound was muffled and muddy beyond belief. Not something that was either fitting for, or what would one would expect for a headliner at Donington (be it Download or Monsters Of Rock). Attempts to relocate to improve the sound proved largely fruitless, until a jaunt to get very close to the stage led to a large improvement in sound quality.

Though the sound felt largely responsible, it also seemed like something was lacking from Maiden themselves; Perhaps certain sections of the setlist didn’t connect with the audience as they would have liked. It was hard to pin down an exact cause but aside from Steve Harris being his ever reliable self they didn’t own the stage with the power one would associate with Iron Maiden. Even Bruce Dickinson’s dry wit seemed to dry up at times and felt forced at others. The magnificent Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (a song that would be a highlight of any performance) was largely lost in the wind (literally) and it wasn’t until being close to the stage for a rousing rendition of The Clairvoyant and the always majestic Fear Of The Dark did it feel like the Iron Maiden so many of us know and love.

Iron Maiden on stage at Download 2013
Iron Maiden: Not smooth sailing

The encore should have been a guaranteed, no brainer of certain victory; Churchill’s Speech into Aces High, complete with an “RAF Pilot Eddie” backdrop had 90,000 people going bananas. Having shifted position once again to take it in from the hill, it was truly devastating to see Maiden struck down by the sound demons once again. Things didn’t progress any for The Evil That Men Do, and although the closing Running Free was an improvement, the feeling afterwards was definitely one of “what could have been”.

The Iron Maiden “Maiden England” setlist was:

Spitfire Opening
Moonchild
Can I Play With Madness
The Prisoner
2 Minutes To Midnight
Afraid To Shoot Strangers
The Trooper
Number Of The Beast
Phantom Of The Opera
Run To The Hills
Wasted Years
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
The Clairvoyant
Fear Of The Dark
Iron Maiden
====================================
(Intro) Churchill’s Speech
Aces High
The Evil That Men Do
Running Free
(PA Outro) Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

As fellow RS writer Matt Hill alluded to in his review, it’s difficult to know how to assess this performance (sound problems notwithstanding). Hopefully it was a bad night rather than the waining of the powers of a British metal institution, Rocksins certainly hopes so anyway.

In this reviewers opinion, as with the previous day, it belonged not to a headliner but to one of the new breed emerging from our own shores, with Bury Tomorrow definitely earning the accolade of band of the day for the Saturday of Download 2013. The final part of our Download 2013 review will be online soon, please stay tuned for that.

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