Kicking off on Friday (9th June), Wayward Sons got the festival underway with a spirited set on the newly christened Apex main stage. Featuring onetime Little Angels font man Toby Jepson, the band's hard rock sound was the perfect start to the day, with their considerably notable fan base singing along to every word.
Airbourne's raucous set on the Opus second stage was for many, an early highlight. Led by firebrand front man Joel O'Keefe, the Aussie rockers brought the party from the off with their beer-soaked Aussie rock anthems.
Over in the Dogtooth tent, Steve Harris made his first appearance of the weekend, bringing British Lion's classic rock sound to the bursting to capacity marquee. Although Harris himself is no stranger to the Donington stage, singer Richard Taylor noted that: "this is the first time this band has ever played Download". Ensuring a night to remember, he got the spirits raised, particularly during rousing finale 'In the Eyes of the Young'.
Closing the first night, the bombast and scale of KISS's show was fitting of their legacy. Calling time on not only day one, but, as part of their 'End of the Road' tour, their time on stage in the U.K., it was a fitting end to their glittering career.
"How you doing Download?", shrieked the never understated Paul Stanley greeting the crowd. He continued; "let me tell you something, this is the fifth time we've played here, and it's the last time". Sharing the love, he went on; "we want you to know we love you, we've always loved you, and we'll always love you!"
With towering inflatable statues of all four members flanking the huge stage, mountains of pyro and dizzying lights, the band went out, appropriately, in the most over the top, flamboyant fashion.
Saturday (11th June) saw a rejuvenated Megadeth joined by bassist James LoMenzo for his first U.K. gig since returning to the band. The thrash veterans bookended their second stage headline set with 'Rust in Peace' classics 'Hanger 18' and 'Holy Wars', with a welcome rare outing for hidden treasure 'Angry Again' also thrown into the mix.
Promising that new material is on the way, band leader Dave Mustaine said of the forthcoming 'The Sick, The Dying... and the Dead'; "We've got a new album out in September, and we've a new single dropping on July 23rd, so drop me a message on socials and tell me what you think about it".
British metal royalty, and Donington veterans having fist played on the site back in 1988 at the 'Monsters of Rock' festival, it was no surprise that the six piece behemoth drew the biggest crowd of the weekend.
With the pandemic layoff allowing a recharge, last year's 'Senjutsu' album has put new life into the band, who are now, arguably at top of their game.
Clearly relishing their return and the first chance to air their newest material on home turf, Bruce Dickinson exclaimed; "come on Donington, let's get this party fucking started!", as 'The Writing on the Wall' kicked into life for its first ever U.K. outing.
Bringing the show to a close with a storming 'Aces High' Dickinson echoed what the crowd had been feeling, saying; "it's been there years of shit, and you fucking deserve every minute of this weekend!"
Sunday (12th June)'s final day brought a glam-tastic Opus stage set from The Darkness, with the peacocking Justin Hawkins going through a number of costume changes from a garish pink Elvis in Las Vegas suit, to a tasselled white jumpsuit. With the sound bleeding over from the main stage during the call and response breakdown in 'Get Your Hand Off My Woman', Hawkins quipped in his deadpan way; "we have to make more noise than Korn because at the moment they're being quite disrespectful and playing over this repetitious moment"!
All that was left was for Biffy Clyro to close out the event with their second ever Download Festival headliner slot. With a set packed with alt rock anthems, theirs was for many, the perfect way to see out the festival. Summing up how much the event meant to everyone, front man Simon Neil said; "we've waited three years to play this show and you've waited three years to be back, so it really means a lot".
Download Festival is set to celebrate its twentieth anniversary in 2023, with a four day extravaganza planned. For all the latest, visit the official site.
Stay tuned for eonmusic's interviews from Download 2022 including Zakk Wylde, Airbourne, Lacuna Coil, Monster Truck, and more.