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Guns N’ Roses, Black Stone Cherry, and Thunder, Download Festival - review and pictures

By Kirsten Rawlins | Music | Published: | Last Updated:

Guns N’ Roses’ Axl, Slash and Duff brought their hotly-anticipated headline set to Download last night - and, packed with hits, fireworks and outstanding guitar solos aplenty, it was One In A Million.

Blessed with glorious, sunny weather, classic and southern rock fans were treated to a stellar afternoon filled with superb performances on the main stage from London icons Thunder and Kentucky stars Black Stone Cherry, before G N’ R launched into their phenomenal three-hour set.

Thunder frontman Danny Bowes stunned fans with awesome vocals throughout their show, with tremendous range and awesome strength. He had a great energy too; jumping around, clapping his hands, and waving his arms to fire up the crowd.

His control over the audience and easy showmanship proved his brilliance as a rock frontman, as his voice left the huge mass of bodies which had turned out to watch the band astounded.

“Hands up if you were here in 1990," bellowed Danny.

“Hands up if you weren’t even born in 1990.

“Well, I will show you young 'uns.”

And that he most certainly did, with incredible renditions of hits including Backstreet Symphony and Love Walked In, before ending their excellent set with 1990 anthem Dirty Love, which saw the whole band impress.

Though Thunder was fairly low down on the day’s line-up of acts, the band certainly gave even Guns N’ Roses a run for their money with such a stonking show.

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Black Stone Cherry Photo credit: Matt Eachus

Up next was US southern rock collective Black Stone Cherry, whose super energy and thrilling, gritty sound drew huge crowds.

And their set was great, with a varied selection of upbeat numbers and even the odd cover thrown in for good measure.

Lead singer Chris Robertson’s gritty, strong vocals were excellent; the band’s clear, hefty sound carrying across the arena as they impressed with songs such as Blind Man, In My Blood, Like I Roll and Blame It On The Boom Boom.

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“I love you Download,” grinned Chris, dressed in a black hat, waistcoat and dark shades.

“It’s been entirely too long.”

Super, unexpected covers of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Foxy Lady and Bob Marley’s Stir It Up also sounded great beneath the afternoon sun - and showed the band’s wide range of talents.

White Trash Millionaire was among the set highlights, with Ben Wells impressing on guitar, and Chris displaying his wonderful ability to sing at high speed while maintaining his excellent vocal quality.

Parkway Drive Photo credit: Caitlin Mogridge

But there was one band the tens of thousands in the arena had turned out to see yesterday - from the aged couples, to the groups of teenage girls, to young families with children proudly donning the group’s merchandise - Guns N’ Roses.

And I’ve never seen such a humongous crowd gather for one act before; it was truly an overwhelming experience.

I never believed I would get the chance to see Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan play on stage together - but, here they were, and the excitement all around was electric.

And they most certainly did not disappoint.

For many acts - regardless of their talents - a three-hour set could have easily become tiresome; but not with Guns N’ Roses. I couldn’t look away for a second.

Their magnificent set was filled with hit after blinding hit, pyrotechnics and costume changes aplenty from iconic frontman Axl.

Kicking off their show with 1987 number It’s So Easy, Axl busted out his trademark moves from the get-go; holding his mic stand in the air, swaying from side to side, and spinning on the spot with the mic stand across his body.

For the younger people in the crowd - certainly me, whose dream has been to see Axl play live since the age of 14 - this was like a dream come true.

Duff, now aged 54, looked great too, donning jaw-length blond hair, a black leather waistcoat and sunglasses. He’s certainly still the heartthrob he ever was.

But star of the show was almost certainly Staffordshire-born guitar legend Slash, whose solos throughout the set were nothing short of jaw-dropping.

The show was simply hit after hit, with a few wonderful covers thrown in for good measure; many of them seemingly understated tributes to lost stars.

Among the fan favourites which came thick and fast were Mr Brownstone, Welcome To The Jungle, Live and Let Die, Rocket Queen, Civil War and, of course, Sweet Child O’ Mine.

A gorgeous instrumental version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You were also featured, as well as excellent renditions of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun and Velvet Revolver’s Slither.

My personal favourite of the show was a beautiful, spine-tingling performance of what is arguably one of Guns N’ Roses’ biggest hits November Rain, which saw Axl perform on piano, Slash give stunning solos on guitar, and a digital backdrop make it appear rain and lightning were on the stage as the crowd silently looked on; when they weren’t singing along, that is.

In one of his many costume changes, Axl donned a beige cowboy hat and a black jacket with beige fringes as he and the band played a tremendous rendition of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, which also saw the gargantuan crowd fill in the chorus at Axl’s request.

Songs such as Patience, Nightrain and a cover of The Who’s The Seeker followed, before the iconic act ended their magnificent set with a tremendous performance of Paradise City - part of the video for which was shot at the Donington festival back in 1988.

As this was their final number, the band pulled out all the stops, with Slash playing the guitar behind his head, massive muticoloured fireworks shooting into the air, confetti raining down on the crowd and Axl running from side to side of the huge stage.

An incredible evening for Guns N’ Roses fans, and an experience So Fine, no fan will forget it any time soon.

Brummie metal icon Ozzy Osbourne will headline Download Festival today, with other acts set to play including The Hives, Marilyn Manson, Shinedown, In This Moment and A.

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins
@kirsten_Star

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star. E-mail me kirsten.rawlins@expressandstar.co.uk, or phone 01902 319368

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