Def Leppard, Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators, and Whitesnake performing at the Download Festival Donington Park on Friday 14th June 2019

Review by Kevin Cooper

With the muddy conditions dominating the Download Festival this year and many having to leave the camp sites even before a note was played, those that braved the weather were treated to three days of good old heavy rock with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

And as the gates to the arena opened, thousands of music fans rushed into the first day of Download, full of energy and trying to get to the front of the main stage for the early evening start which saw Whitesnake warm the crowd up with songs that have inspired music lovers for over five decades.

Whitesnake, with front man Dave Coverdale, are a band that have helped shape a generation of musicians, singers, songwriters, metal heads and head bangers alike and when they took to the stage they did so like returning heroes and owned it from the first note of the first song of the set, as the guitar kicked in for Bad Boys.

Slide It In from the 1984 album of the same name, sounded really good, despite Coverdale’s voice getting a little older. But Love Ain’t No Stranger and Slow An’ Easy from the same album showed that these elder rulers of metal can still throw it down and rock.

With new song Shut Up & Kiss Me from their latest album, Flesh & Blood, being well received by this appreciative crowd, Whitesnake entertained with the lovely ballad, Is This Love and for Trouble Is Your Middle Name there was the excellent duelling guitar solos of Rob Beach and Joel Hoekstra which the crowd just loved.

For Give Me All Your Love and Here I Go Again, the reaction from the crowd was as expected, with screams, yells and two fingered devil horns as far as the eye could see. Finishing with one of their biggest hits, there was a huge roar for the electrifying Still Of The Night, as shouts for “more” rang around the arena.

Whitesnake were undoubtedly a hard act to follow, and that task was left to Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators. Promoting their fourth album collaboration, Living The Dream, it was natural that it would focus heavily in the set.

Not relying on screens, gimmicks or props, they allowed their music to do the talking as the five piece opened with new song, The Call Of The Wild, and it was immediately easy to see why Slash is hailed as being one of the greatest guitar players within this genre of music, and as Kennedy roamed around the stage to draw in the crowd, it was clear that it was him that brought it all together.

Other new songs included Boulevard Of Broken Hearts, the thrashy Mind Your Manners and stadium filler Driving Rain all sounded familiar. The sultry Serve You Right stood out for its raw sound as it was delivered with an abundance of energy, and My Antidote with its edgy verses and punchy chorus was a real highlight.

The very wet crowd sang along to staples like Halo, Back From Cali and You’re A Lie which all put in an appearance, and when bassist Todd Kerns took over the lead vocals on Doctor Alibi, the band were able to show a different musical side, with the song’s loose, almost punk vibe being a nice shift in the set.

Slash is a commensurate performer, having been making records and touring for more than thirty years and with his trademark hat, black curly locks and sunglasses, he cuts an iconic figure. So it was no surprise then that there was a Guns N’ Roses song in the set list and this time it was Nightrain from their blockbuster debut album, Appetite For Destruction.

The Conspirators are a very tight band and in Miles Kennedy they have a very charismatic front man who last night was in fine form. With Todd Kerns quite comfortably transitioning from bass playing backing vocalist to lead singer, Frank Sidoris on rhythm guitar fitting as the perfect accompaniment to Slash’s lead and Brent Fitz somehow managing to effortlessly drum through the set, there was a wealth of talent on the stage.

Finishing with World On Fire, the applause from the arena crowd was immense as Slash moved to the middle of the stage with Fitz for a ten minute jam that served to show that this band did deserve a place on the Download stage.

As the sun began to set on the first day of the Download Festival, British hard rock heroes Def Leppard brought their Hysteria Tour to the hallowed grounds of Castle Donington.

Having toured it extensively last year, and climaxing at Wembley Arena, front man Joe Elliot, drummer Rick Allen, bassist Rick Savage and guitarists Phil Colleen and Vivian Campbell, brought their kind of music to the party with a slick polished show, flanked by giant screens.

Performing the album in its entirety they sounded immaculate with tracks like the crowd sing alongs Rocket and Animal. Pour Some Sugar On Me received a huge ovation, alongside other big hitters like Love Bites and the album’s title track.

Few bands look as comfortable on a festival main stage than Def Leppard, who last had a headlining slot at Download ten years ago. And very little seems to have changed since then with singer Elliott still commanding the stage effortlessly, sounding as good as ever and looking almost impossibly fresh faced. The only concession to the appalling damp squib of the weather was Colleen wearing a jacket forgoing his usual shirtless look due to the cold Donington conditions.

And when the album was brought to an end with Love And Affection, the suspense amongst the crowd was noticeable. Coming back on for a six song encore which included some of their hits, the music was stopped so as to enable the band to offer a touching tribute to deceased guitarist Steve Clarke before they launched into a stunning climax to their set which included the lovely ballad When Love And Hate Collide, alongside classics, Let’s Get Rocked, Rock Of Ages and Photograph which just served to cement Def Leppard’s headlining credentials.