Following on from their ‘Hysteria & More’ run in late 2018, which included a stop off at Belfast’s SSE Arena, the show marked the final run through for the diamond-certified album.
Pulling out all the stops with blistering light show and firey performance, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ripped through a barrage of their best-known tracks from the off, with ‘Hysteria’s front-loaded opening section. Opening with ‘Women’, the singles followed, with a pounding ‘Rocket’, followed by an anthemic ‘Animal’, and a dramatic ‘Love Bites’.
With deeper cuts ‘Gods of War’, ‘Run Riot’ and ‘Don’t Shoot Shotgun’ padding out the middle of the set, it was also a treat for the more seasoned Leppard aficionado.
Greeting the crowd, Joe Elliott said; “You have no idea how much it means to be here. It's good to be back.” Noting the importance of the date in Leppard history, the singer continued; “It’s a pretty significant date today. It’s the 14th June; it’s exactly ten years since we first headlined this place.”
Joe also went on to reminisce about the band’s 1986 appearance at Donington’s Monsters of Rock Festival, and in particular the return of Rick Allen to the live stage saying; “It’s a very spiritual place for Def Leppard. In 1986, when we played, it was essentially Rick Allen’s first gig back after his accident” So this place, geographically, emotionally, is an enormous thing for this boy here, and we cannot thank you enough”.
It was also a notable day for Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell, who, as well as closing the show, opened it with his own Last in Line. Taking to the stage in the early afternoon with a focus firmly on their own material, save for a closing cover of Dio’s ‘Rainbow in the Dark’, singer Andy Freeman welcomed the arriving crowds telling them; “Good morning Download! We’ve got a long day, and a long weekend ahead of us.”
Other acts to take to the main stage on opening day included Tesla, whose guitarist Dave Rude was celebrating his birthday, and a triumphant Whitesnake, whose hit-laden set proved one of the most fun-filled of the day.
Download 2019 continues on Saturday, when Slipknot and Smashing Pumpkins head up the bill, and Sunday, with Slayer playing their last ever UK show, and Tool, who close the event.
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Check out our gallery from the show below. All photos by Enda Madden.