Sunday, and Download Festival 2022 draws to a close with Skillet, The Darkness, Steel Panther, Korn, Biffy Clyro.
Download Festival – Sunday – Part Two
Words: Monty Sewell
Photography: Stuart Isteed
Skillit – Opus Stage
Earlier that day, I briefly bumped into Skillet frontman and pioneer John Cooper, who was all smiles and gracious words with a damn good handshake. The band’s set later that afternoon was just as fist clenching.
Skillet’s members are all multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists with a flair for the dramatic. They spend their hit-loaded set (Monster, Awake And Alive, Feel Invincible, The Resistance) with everyone switching from drums, to bass, to vocals, guitar and back again.
Jen Ledger, in particular, stands out as a prominent driving force behind this Skillet’s live performance though each band member plays a ridiculously well-rehearsed show. However, it’s no surprise coming from the multi-platinum, two-time Grammy-nominated group. A brief speech interlude initiated by Cooper sees him introduce the song Hero with tales of pushing through those hard times and getting out to the other side. “You guys aren’t giving up!”
Only one song is played from their 2022 record – Dominion – but with a twenty-year discography to fit within the bookends of a shorter festival time slot, they manage to squeeze in those crowd-pleasers and garner a great buzz for it.
The Darkness – Opus Stage
On a hot Sunday afternoon in mid-June, you’ll only ever hear a Christmas song during a Darkness set. It should be wrong, it should feel wrong, but somehow, as Justin Hawkins teases the crowd, “you don’t want to hear a Christmas song now, do you?” it really feels like it needs to be heard.
Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) finishes The Darkness’s set after a thoroughly entertaining set which sees the band all donning retro styles from pink cowboy-styled suits to huge white collars and exaggerated quiffs.
I Believe In A Thing Called Love is accompanied by a mass jump chorus from the audience and though they leave the new material on the side, on festival turf is always best to bring out the best known, and The Darkness does it with their best foot forward. The set ends far too soon, but it’s the opener of the evening that Download needs.
Steel Panther – Opus Stage
Steel bloody Panther. What else can be said about Metal’s biggest hair band with the biggest mouths other than what an entertaining time they give. They’re the only band that, with their live performances, you know exactly what you’re going to get.
Yet you are always surprised, whilst laughing through gasped expressions, at the larger-than-life, sex-fuelled personalities they throw on for the occasion.
Steel Panther, unashamedly pastiche of those ’80s hair Metal clichés crotch thrust their way through Goin’ In The Backdoor, Let Me Cum In and Asian Hooker amongst the rest of the church infuriating titles. A cover of Crazy Train makes a click appearance after The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins joins them onstage for Party All Day (Fuck All Night).
It’s pyrotechnic mania with sparks shooting both up from the stage and water falling down from the top of the rigging. A pinch of flames bursts up from the forestage, and a dash of air bursts to finish the show, and you have the concoction of a Steel Panther gig.
“Years ago, I decided to hire the best, most badass Metal vocalist who inspired a whole generation to drop out of college and meet hookers…. But Vince Neil wasn’t available, so I settled for Michael Starr here!” Guitarist Russ Parrish is all love for his brothers.
Death To All But Metal and Glory Hole close-up shop, inevitably causing screams of “encore” from the excess amount of wig-wearing, leopard print leggings-wearing fans that have flocked to Donington today just to see the band do what they do, like no other.
Korn – Apex Stage
That fist-clanging intro riff to Here To Stay played to thousands of pumped-up fans as the wind ups its game and the sun sets is quite something to behold. It’s been argued that Nu-Metal would not be what it is without Korn as one of the initiating acts of the genre, and today, during their stealthy 15-song set, they really drill that point home.
Frontman Jonathan Davis brings his unwavering death call vocals in full force, bringing out the bagpipes as he commands the crowds, using the stage to its fullest in his usual black attire. Davis’ iconic, silver-bodied mic stand is ever-present as the band play through tracks from their long-running back catalogue.
Falling Away From Me, Cold, Somebody Someone, Freak On A Leash and Twist are full circle head bangers whilst bonus additions come with Shoots and Ladders and Coming Undone featuring snippets of Metallica’s One and Queens’ We Will Rock You, respectively.
Korn continues touring their new album, Requiem, after an intimate London show that follows Download.
Biffy Clyro – Apex Stage
Biffy Clyro are festival main stage veterans and for a good reason. Funnily enough, I saw them last year at Reading festival headlining that Sunday’s events at probably around the exact same time, and of course, I could not wait to see them again in a larger, more rock/Metal family setting.
The stage layout was all platforms and stairs, lending to a textured performance in which constant spell-binding visuals were being projected behind. The band play their latest single release, A Hunger In Your Haunt, within minutes and continue through the bulky set with a shockingly brilliant amount of zest and flavour.
Wolves Of Winter, Black Chandelier, The Golden Rule and Space inspire mass singalongs before the guys bring out the big ballad brawn with Biblical.
Simon Neil sings note to note perfection with the unwavering work ethic he protrudes from the band shining out of every word. Rhythm section James Johnston and Ben Johnston join him in that perfect Clyro triangle that has continued to hold onto old fans and secure many new throughout the years.
The encore features The Captain before Many Of Horror is handed to us with a ticker-tape and firework display to mark the end of a great year at Download Festival 2022. The perfect end to what many will call the perfect weekend.
As the sea of leather jackets and sunburnt faces wearily depart the fields of Donington, there’s that bittersweet sigh in the air: we don’t want to leave, but my god, we will be back.