3 days of hard rock and metal celebrating the 30th anniversary of rock at Donington. Review Part #1: The Big Guns.

Another year came round oh-so-quickly and Download 2010 was upon us faster than you could say one-year-of-blogging.

You kind-of knew what to expect from ACDC, and they didn’t pull out any surprises (unless you count an early Back in Black), holding the audience’s attention up until their fireworks after For Those About to Rock.

Their train, bell, blow-up woman etc. all featured on their custom built stage, but were they worth cutting the musical part of the festival half a day short for? Or worth the annoying extra stage that was in the way for the rest of the weekend? Not in my opinion.

Rage Against the Machine got a rapturous reaction from the crowd, to the extent that security asked them to pause their set during one of the early songs because people were getting hurt in the crush at the front.

Zack de la Rocha thanked the crowd for having bought Killing in the Name at Christmas, and mentioned their Finsbury Park gig the previous weekend, but that didn’t stop the band playing a pretty much identical set from the previous Sunday.

The Download show included Calm Like a Bomb and Wake Up, but no sense of triumphant atmosphere of victory over ‘the man’ like the Rage Factor gig did.

Nevertheless, I can’t complain, it was another cracking performance.

The Sunday headliners were Aerosmith. Possibly the least popular, and some would argue least suited of the three headliners, the Boston veterans put on a polished performance, with a blues section in the middle, and most of their classics were there (although Dude Looks Like a Lady was conspicuous by its absence).

But I don’t think that the steady stream of people heading back to the campsite before the end of their set was only due to the rainy weather.

According to the official Download T-shirts this year, Them Crooked Vultures were actually the headline act on the Friday mainstage.

Festival organiser Andy Copping also suggested in a recent interview that he had considered having them as headliners and granting us mere mortals the privilege of seeing a full line-up of bands on the Friday instead of the five per stage that was apparently the fault of ACDC’s stage set-up.

Surely this must be a bluff on Mr. Copping‘s part, because given that Them Crooked Vultures were only there due to the (legendary) status of Messrs Grohl, Homme and Jones, rather than the group’s reputation itself you’d think that the band might have played something during their long set that would have pleased the crowd.

You’d have thought wrong however, as the trio (and Alain Johannes) just warbled through their new material, with few of the songs lasting less than five minutes, and not a great deal of them being particularly inspiring.

I’m not saying they should have played any Zeppelin, QOTSA or Foo Fighters tracks, but would a cover that people have known instead of one of the ten minute solos or jams have been too much to ask?

This was in marked contrast to Slash’s performance on Sunday. The guitar hero knew that 120,000 people weren’t there solely to hear his new material and so treated them to GNR’s Night Train, Sweet Child o’ Mine and Paradise City, as well as Velvet Revolver’s Slither and a song featuring Lemmy from Motorhead.

That’s how you please a Donington crowd.

MUCHMOREMETAL.COM FACT: The combined age of the 14 men performing in the headline acts (ACDC, RATM and Aerosmith) at the Download Festival 2010 was: 755. The average age was 54.