Download 2019: The Highlights – Friday – Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Rob Zombie and more.

As you may have read from our previous instalment. It was kind of muddy, but don’t believe the news reports that everyone left before the festival began: I can honestly say this was one of the busiest Downloads in memory.

So here it is, the first ‘proper’ day of the festival.  Looking at the line-up this seems to be the annual day which is a nod to Monsters Of Rock, the proto-Download. Headliners Def Leppard, along with Whitesnake, Slash, Tesla, Skid Row and Last In Line (most of the original members of Dio) make sure of this. Seeing as these iconic festivals had about seven bands on the line-up, this would have completed the bill. On the other hand, we have a lot of bands making their debut at DL, and some ‘younger’ bands climbing the ladder to the coveted headline slot.

This year we have three bands opening the whole festival: Last In Line on the main stage, Goodbye June on the Zippo Encore stage, and competition winners Pengshui on Avalanche stage. Pengshui won the battle of the bands for the right to open this fantastic stage. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Avalanche stage is generally reserved for the punkier bands playing this festival. Pengshui is certainly different – a mix between grime and a pseudo- Shikari. Not bad, but DL regulars are more likely to check out the main stage where they will find Last In Line. As mentioned earlier, this includes the original members of Dio – this means Vivien Campbell is doing double duty OPENING and CLOSING Friday night on the main stage. This man is 56. What a legend. Speaking of which, we are treated to a rendition of ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ to finish the night… I mean day.

Going back to the Avalanche stage, Canadian genre-spanning punks Sumo Cyco make their DL debut. This is a great turn out for a band whose albums are fan-funded. An amazing performance as always getting into the crowd, getting everyone involved and jumping. Catching the audience off guard with their own version of ‘BYOB‘ (System Of A Down). Although they aren’t from home turf, this is a band that really understand the Download audience. Let’s hope this enough for them to be at least on the Zippo stage, if not the main stage like their biggest influence Skindred are on Saturday.

Bit of a wait for the next band on the Avalanche stage as Icon For Hire is a bit late and only give us a 20-minute set. It’s a good 20 mins for sure, shame we don’t get the full show though. Following are Japanese crazy dudes MAN WITH A MISSION. This band basically fuse electronic hip hop and dance music elements with punk rock and a tad of metal. They also wear wolf masks. This is such a fun band, they also invite members of Zebrahead onstage for a track too. Hope to see this lot again soon.  This another time we have a few clashes, we are already missing Clutch, and soon Zebrahead will clash with Whitesnake.

In the spirit of Donington, Whitesnake draws a decent crowd, plus the sun has made an appearance. Looks like things are picking up.David Coverdale and co. march out to ‘My Generation’ by The Who (for some reason) and start strong with ‘Bad Boys’ and quickly getting into the classics like ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’. Although David Coverdale may be the only original member, this band is still very old school. Quite a long set including guitar and drum solos. One of the things that are most impressive about Whitesnake is that Coverdale has never lost his golden voice over the years, unlike some of his contemporaries. This is clear when classics like ‘Is This Love’ and ‘Here I Go Again’ are more or less pitch perfect.  It’s great Whitesnake have had a career spanning over four decades but maybe time to take a step back and let the kids step up?

Speaking of Donington veterans, you don’t get cooler than Slash teaming up with his mate Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. This collaboration has had a long enough life they manage to fill a 14-song set with 12 original tracks leaving room for the GNR classic ‘Night Train’ and Slash solo track ‘Back in Cali‘. Kennedy’s rock vocal is undisputedly one of the best in the world, yet the main attraction is clearly Slash’s playing. This is something that needs to be seen to be believed. Not as epic as GNR’s headline set last year but still a great show.

Hop-skip to the Zippo Encore and horror-rock god Rob Zombie is closing this part of the festival for the night. Apparently, this is part of the ‘Twins Of Evil’ tour with Marilyn Manson. Except Manson isn’t here. Interesting. Zombie is always a crowd pleaser and this set is no different. All the classics from ‘Living Dead Girl‘ and ‘House Of 1,000 Corpses‘ as well as a couple of White Zombie numbers and a surprising cover of ‘Helter Skelter‘ (The Beatles) of course accompanied by imagery of Charles Manson. This is another thing about Zombie – he knows how to use clips of movies as part of his show, being a director himself he has an eye for detail. Funnily enough a trailer for his new movie ‘Three From Hell’ plays before his encore of ‘Dragula’. What a great show. It’s obvious why Zombie is a popular choice at Download and why he’s headlined Bloodstock.

We then get on to our first headliner of the weekend: Def Leppard. The Sheffield rock legends have played Download and Monsters Of Rock more than a lot of other bands can say they have. A rather popular choice, yet it’s at the point we’ve seen this all before. A great band for sure, I have all the respect in the world for them. But, I have to ask this: Are Def Leppard really that much of a draw in 2019? I’m not sure about that one. Sadly not that much of a turnout in comparison to some headliners, but clashing with someone like Rob Zombie, and to an extent At The Gates on the Dogtooth stage. Or even Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. Can’t say there isn’t variety at this festival.

Def Lep’s set begins with Hysteria in full, as advertised. For its monumental 32nd anniversary…eh? Joe Elliot and co. are on their ‘Best Of’ tour so why not just play that? Although they have been playing material from Hysteria on their last tour so…fair enough. I’m sure plenty of people would be pleased with that. I guess the band wanted to do something special for Download. The best thing about this is we hear tracks you don’t usually see live these days, as well as popular singles like ‘Animal’ and ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me‘ early on. For hardcore fans, this is a good treat. Are there many of those these days? For their encore, we get some more hits like ‘Let’s Get Rocked’ and ending with ‘Photograph’. Can’t say this was a bad performance, at all. yet this seemed a bit underwhelming as a headline set. Joe Elliot’s mic effect seemed like it was masking his voice a bit, and this is a show a lot have people have seen before. Similarly to Whitesnake, might be time to take a step back. Elliot finishes saying “Until next time…and there will be a next time!” Download 2022 headliners confirmed?

Overall this was a good day to start DL19, some classics and a few newbies to set the scene for the rest of the weekend. Looking at Saturday and Sunday, this may be a good starting point as there are many types of bands, sorry, acts ahead. In all, not the best headliner but still an exciting day.

Featured image courtesy of the official Download Festival website.

Videos courtesy of YouTube.

About Neale McGeever

Contributing Editor - I'm an entertainment writer ('journalist') from the North East. My favourite bands include Slipknot, Nirvana and Ninja Sex Party... I've freelanced for the likes of Kerrang!,Closer, Front, ZOO, and many others! I'm also big in to movies, video games, live comedy and ...beer!

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