Concluding our coverage of the summer’s great rock and metal shindig, Download 2017, just in time for the other biggest one, Bloodstock Open Air 2017, to take place, the review of the action of the final day begins with the Zippo Encore Stage. But first, make sure you check out the coverage from the other days of Download 2017 if you’ve not yet had the chance to read them:
Rock Sins Download Festival 2017 Friday Review – Main Stage
Rock Sins Download Festival 2017 Friday Review – Zippo Encore Stage
Rock Sins Download Festival 2017 Friday Review – Avalanche and Dogtooth Stages
Rock Sins Download Festival 2017 Saturday Review – Main Stage
Rock Sins Download Festival 2017 Saturday Review – Zippo Encore Stage
Rock Sins Download Festival 2017 Saturday Review – Avalanche and Dogtooth Stages
The Sunday at Download Festival is generally “Classic Rock Day”, so it seems fitting to book The Dead Daisies (7) – a group of not yet retired musicians from various classic rock band line-ups from the past 20 years – even though some fans have taken a dislike to the early/short slot on the second stage.
On paper this band is awesome – scrap that – AWESOME, being comprised of vocalist John Corabi (Motley Crue), guitarists Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake) and David Lowry (Red Phoenix), bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy) and drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake), but actually they’re just good.
I was lucky enough to see the band open for Black Star Riders when Richard Fortus (guitar, ex-GNR) and Jon Stevens (vocalist of INXS fame) were in the line-up and I have to say that was a better gig, BUT let’s be fair that was a night time indoor gig with lights and beer, whilst The Dead Daisies at Download 2017 was at lunchtime on Day 3 of a very excessive weekend.
Right from the opening Long Way to Go, Corabi’s voice is in good form, even if he seems to be trying to look like Steven Tyler, while Make Some Noise is a fine tune indeed. Doug Aldrich is as fantastic as ever and Marco Mendoza still works the stage and crowd better at 54 years old than most of the much younger main stage bands over the weekend.
I’m not sure the cover of Midnight Moses by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was necessary – I always feel bands should be showcasing their own songs at festivals, not doing covers (and/or solo spots in the case of some bands) – but The Dead Daisies played as well as expected, even if perhaps the songs weren’t quite as great as they could have been. A later and longer set may have made a big difference, but respectfully speaking at their age they don’t need to play these small festival sets, so one can only assume they do it because they love their job. At the end of the day isn’t that what it’s all about? GL
From classic rock to metal, Devildriver (6) are a fan favourite at Download and had been among live audiences everywhere for many years so it was great to see them back in 2017. Unfortunately the performance was mixed in it’s quality, sound levels and how well it was received.
You can definitely tell there is still immense admiration for the masterpieces the band have written over the years which can be no better demonstrated than from the intensity the crowd gave during the set closing Meet the Wretched, the pit extending over the majority of the entire first section. Sadly in some songs we only saw a shadow of this in both band and crowd, but with the likes of Clouds Over California also on show, there was enough to keep most in attendance happy. IW
In a total contrast to the ever bone-crushing Devildriver, next up on the Zippo Stage are Liverpudlian prog-rockers Anathema (8), who perform a very relaxing set in the sun. They open their set with ‘Leave It All Behind’ off of their latest album, which seems like a great way to start as the build-up throughout the song leads you into the rest of the set. It’s clear that Anathema aren’t the heavy band that they once were, with the material being played comprising of songs from more recent albums, showcasing their intricate instrumentation and soaring melodies. The band finish with ‘Untouchable, Pt 1’ which sounds as beautiful with ever and gives a nice breather in what remains to be a fairly hectic day of music. CM
As the day three beers finally start to kick in and take away all the pain, aches, sleeplessness and bangovers of Days 1 and 2, Clutch (7) step out to take their early evening slot on the second stage at Download Festival 2017. No strangers to the festival themselves, the chill in the air caused by a rather strong breeze is swiftly history as the hordes of Clutch fans bounce and dance to the band’s infectious southern groove blues rock riffery.
After a minor technical difficulty the party gets started with Your Love is Incarceration, from 2015 album Psychic Warfare, before going back in time to The Mob Goes Wild, if the crowd weren’t already in the palm of their hand they were after more Psychic Warfare material in the form of the title track straight into the arse kicking that is Firebirds.
It’s a shame that 5 of the 10 songs Clutch play in the slowly lowering sunshine are from Psychic Warfare, rather than showcasing their fantastic back catalogue (where were Electric Worry and/or Mice & Gods dammit?!?) and at 2 years old the album surely doesn’t need this much promotion anymore does it? Well clearly the band are looking to wind down that particular touring cycle and have started playing 2 new songs in their set, Download being treated to just one titled How To Shake Hands, a clearly very political song but one that oozes rock & roll in a way only Clutch can deliver, Neil Fallon (vocals) delivering the lines like a cross between a political rally and a sermon.
It’s a testament, however, to Clutch’s sound and songwriting that a song so new is treated like an old favourite by pretty much the entire crowd and proof that after over 25 years the band show no sign of slowing down and will be around for a long while yet. This might well be the best time to see them on their own headliner tour…GL
As with any band that have a 30 year history, there are a multitude of classic Ministry (9.5) songs that are staples of the live shows. With it being the 25th anniversary of ‘Psalm 69 (The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs)’, a pioneering album that some would consider their master-work, the offensively short set is mostly peppered with the classics from it.
Whilst Al most recently ploughed his energy into the same-vein-new-approach-stylings with Surgical Meth Machine, and again, despite numerous promises to the contrary, it isn’t really that surprising to discover that a new album is being put together to follow 2013’s ‘Relapse’.
As such, we’re treated to a new song (which is great for somebody like me who’s heard all the old ones a thousand times) in the form of ‘Antifa’, a typical Ministry offering dripping with soundbites, mighty riffs and as much of Al’s political satire as you’d expect to get.
Opening with ‘Psalm 69’, dipping into the anti-Bush era for ‘LiesLiesLies’ and surprising even me with ‘Bad Blood’, by the time the closing trio of ‘N.W.O’, ‘Just One Fix’ and ‘Thieves’ have finished I’m permanently looking at the floor because I’ve knocked the skull off my spine.
This was the first time some of my colleagues had seen (and heard) Ministry and I think they were equally as impressed as I was. Not only was it a perfect time to catch them, but they were rigid, powerful and captivating. A lot of people watching this afternoon are here for a reason; all the rest are very glad that fate meant they were able to see this. A knowing and sustained applause following their set shows that, realistically, Ministry will die when, and if, Al ever does…MH
Opeth (9), on the other hand, are harbingers of beautiful melody and nut-crushing brutality, interwoven with dexterous chordiage and Scandinavian humour. It was a delight as per usual to have the privilege of seeing them live.
It is not something I mean lightly when I say that Opeth are, very much, one of the best musical offerings of the last 60 years. There are a few bands whose material has been vastly opposing between releases; Tiamat went mental and gave up their dark metal stylings to embrace the gothic charm of handkerchiefs (whilst you could say Ministry went the other way) and Pantera’s ‘Metal Magic’ couldn’t be any further from ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’ unless my parents tried covering it.
The thing about Opeth is not that their music always fantastic, but they’ve got a truly unique sound. Mikael’s voice can flick between soaring majesty and guttural darkness. Unfortunately for some, there’s been none of that since 2008’s ‘Watershed’ and their most recent releases, as with ‘Sorceress’, do nothing to encourage those hopeful fans…
Despite the fact they, like most, are much better suited to an indoor venue they’re also a band whose sound, and performances, well suit the festival surroundings too… even if their darker material is best reserved for elsewhere. Their performance is nothing less than their stellar standard and the sound as crisp as you like. It’s a pleasantly powerful but exceptionally short setlist but with such restrictions on time, and a back catalogue of 12 albums, “picking the bangers” is not as easy as it is in… Amsterdam?
Mikael is on form with his usual banter and in reality, there’s not much that can be said for their set that wouldn’t be what any Opeth fan would expect. With such a vast repertoire of such varied and broad music, I think they’re a band who should be headliners in their own right… on the back of their musical output alone, they deserve it. This is a band, let’s not forget, who sold out the Royal Albert Hall as the first metal band to play there. MH
I’ve had a good weekend by this point and I’m feeling like Opeth would be the perfect band to watch whilst the sun sets and I mong some more into the grass… but mong I shall not, because now everything shifts a gear. As can only be expected, real men of all shapes swarm in from all corners of the festival and congregate as a simmering man-hive for the mighty Slayer (8). I genuinely couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen them now, and whilst the days where I’d spend the entire set in the throes of the pit are (mostly) gone, I’m still always excited for it. Again, my body would have definitely preferred a good hour or eight of relaxing, but save for Aerosmith, this is the last hoorah for the weekend. Considering nobody ever goes half-in for Slayer, what better way to finish off the weekend, and indeed the week, than a nice relaxing hour and 15 of non-stop, solid headbanging?
I threw mountains of praise on Slayer in an article two years ago off the back of the incredible ‘Repentless’ and this show is still, in ways, part of that tour but regardless, we’re not given a new-album-hefty set. As is the Slayer-at-a-festival way, this is an evening of classics that the band have played so many times in their career that they’ve carte blanch to just muscle-memory through their back catalogue with machine-gun precision. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kerry King was going over his shopping list whilst headbanging and chopping through ‘War Ensemble’, a glorious anthem that Tom Araya STILL introduces with his trademark grin; such power really should not be allowed in the hands of one man.
This is a showing, save for two off their last two albums (‘Repentless’ / ‘Hate Worldwide’), that is basically the same Slayer setlist of the last 15 years, which would normally be a boring trait you’d think they’d spice up, but something happens when Slayer play the classics. It’s almost as if the moment you listen to the song the first time, some subliminal aura takes over your sub-conscious, triggered at their evil will to send your body into a hypnotic trance of eternal headbanging.
That said, they dust off the archives and pull out ‘Fight Till Death’ from 1983’s ‘Show No Mercy’ which was a huge surprise to everyone. I laugh as the reality dawns upon a peripheral meathead as I watch him process years of information to make the connection that, yes, this is what they’re playing and then it’s back into the reliable backbone of their live shows.
I suppose if I were to pick a Slayer headlining set myself, I’d probably be comfortable dropping much of what they do play (I’d die a happy man if I get to see them belt out ‘The Final Command’, ‘Dittohead’ and ‘Sex. Murder. Art’) but there’s no way I’d drop ‘Chemical Warfare’ which takes it’s usual position sandwiched in the encore, this time between ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’, songs which have unfortunately started to lose their gloss over the years, powerful as they remain. As with most things, rub it long enough and it’ll start to lose it’s sparkle.
I remain convinced Slayer have sustained a new found energy since Gary Holt replaced the late, great, Jeff Hannemann. That’s not a comment on his contribution to Slayer, but more how the devastating circumstances forced the band to regroup, recharge and invariable reinvent a robust and sturdy model. It can’t be understated how natural it seems to see Gary in this position and how much of a incredible energy he brings to the band. I’m not going to weigh in on whether this would have been better with Lombardo (because not only is Bostaph a phenomenal drummer but his contribution and dedication to the band is often undersold) but it’s there are the back of my mind as I watch them.
Slayer have disappointed me only once and fortunately this Download Festival showing is another joy, albeit unmistakably ‘much of the same’. For all the nonsense that’s supposedly gone on behind the scenes, they remain a powerful and influential force in the musical landscape, even outside metal circles and the command of such a vast throb of people does little to suggest that will ever change. MH
Words by Greg Latham, Iain Willetts, Connor Morris and Matt Hill.