Download Festival 2023 / Metallica are lip-snarlingly grand, Alter Bridge, Skindred

Download Festival 2023. Thursday Afternoon. When coming to a festival, I feel there are two necessities: music (of course) and food. So taking a few moments out, I popped up to the Yorkies stand to grab me a whole load of cholesterol-testing Sunday roast packed into one.

Download Festival 2023 – Thursday Evening

Metallica - Download Festival 2023
Download ’20 – 2023. Photo: John Hayhurst/MetalTalk


Good as it was (if you’ve ever had one, you’ll know), it wasn’t half as good or entertaining as Skindred’s set was, which I delightfully settled into whilst finishing the gravy-soaked crumbs of my dinner.

Skindred - Download Festival 2023
Skindred – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Whether you like Metal, rock, reggae or drum and bass means absolutely nothing when experiencing their performance. Entering the stage to the uncanny sound of the Darth Vadar march, lead man Benji Webbe marches out in his signature over-the-top edgy coat. Class suave meets streetwise cool.

Their set runs like a full theatrical show against the well-tuned Metal music talents of the band. Samplings of Back In Black and Jump just add to the excitement as we never quite know what Skindred will throw at us next. New song Love goes down a treat, and their eclectic mixture of roaringly good riffs and ska vocals sits perfectly as the sun goes down.

Skindred - Download Festival 2023
Skindred – Download Festival 2023. Photo: Andy Shaw/MetalTalk

Webbe is the master of the show, keeping everyone on their toes whilst conducting his knuckle-dusting crew of hard-rocking musicians. No wonder they picked up an award for Best UK Live Artist at the Heavy Metal Music Awards a few weeks ago. Right after their show, I looked up their next touring dates which happen to be through October this year. Sign. Me. Up.

Alter Bridge

I also caught more than a glance at Alter Bridge on the main stage. The last time I saw the guitarist of the group, Mark Tremonti, was at his charity gig singing as Sinatra in full-suited and booted bow tie attire.

Here he was back in his rock ‘n’ roll domain alongside Alter Bridge main man and vocalist/guitarist Myles Kennedy. With a career spanning longer than most and more collaborations with the creme de la creme under his belt than fingers can count, Kennedy hits the hammer once more with another appearance at Download.

Alter Bridge - Download Festival 2023
Alter Bridge – Download ’20 – 2023. Photo: John Hayhurst/MetalTalk

Last year they were on the Opus, but this year kicking things high on the huge Apex. Graciously well put together, the set consisted of newer material as well as classic favourites, such as Metalingus, taken from their 2004 album, One Day Remains.

Download seems to have outdone themselves this year with the sound quality, as Kennedy’s clean vocals cut smoothly across the instrumental with just enough reverb to keep the ground shaking ever so gently throughout the festival side.


With the sun lowering and the heat gradually fading, it’s time for the crowd to get packed in for the first of two whole sets from Metallica. The band just released the album 72 Seasons, an ode to the long-standing Metallica journey right from the start (the maths checks out!).

Metallica - Download Festival 2023
Metallica – Download ’20 – 2023. Photo: John Hayhurst/MetalTalk

To pay tribute to this sentiment, we’re introduced to their performance with pictures of the band, their fans and various anecdotes of their time as certified rockstars. It’s shown on the live stream screens as It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’ N’ Roll) is played and no less than a declaration which we all know to be true: Metallica have come a long way, Metallica are huge, and now, Metallica are here.

They crack things off with most of the material from their latest album with what feels like the entire festival watching. As one guy said, standing near me, “I haven’t seen it like this before, not in many, many years.”

Metallica - Download Festival 2023
Metallica – Download ’20 – 2023. Photo: John Hayhurst/MetalTalk

Whether it’s the extra day of musical excellence, the anniversary celebration or just more music lovers eager to enjoy their time, it feels very much true. Being renowned perfectionists, Metallica are an absolute pleasure and lip-snarlingly grand.

With a band such as this, it’s hard to imagine any gig is new to them, but James, Lars and the gang show so much joy in their playing they make not having a good time feel like a chore.

Metallica - Download Festival 2023
Metallica – Download ’20 – 2023. Photo: John Hayhurst/MetalTalk

Though their new material is coming out as superb, it’s their performance of Nothing Else Matters that really hits a chord as the night engulfs Download, and so does Metallica.

I have no doubt they will bring out some more of the classics on Saturday, and it’s hard to believe we’re going to get even more of tonight in a few day’s time.

Metallica’s M72 World Tour, live from AT&T Stadium in Arlington TX, comes to cinemas worldwide on 18 and 20 August via Trafalgar Releasing. Tickets on sale now at

Metallica – Download Festival 2023 – Setlist #1

Creeping Death
Harvester of Sorrow
Leper Messiah
King Nothing
Lux Æterna
Screaming Suicide
Fade to Black
Sleepwalk My Life Away
Nothing Else Matters
Sad but True
The Day That Never Comes
Seek & Destroy
Master of Puppets

Take Part: Are you at Download this year? Who are you looking forward to see? Want to get in touch and tell us how it’s going? Email MetalTalk Editor Steve Ritchie to tell us how it’s going for you.

MetalTalk Download 2023 coverage can be found at

Download 2023 will see the festival celebrate its 20th anniversary with an additional day, meaning four days of live music in total.

This year’s MetalTalk team is:

Monty Sewell

Paul Monkhouse

Photography by John Hayhurst – SnapAGig

For Download 2022, visit

Sleeve Notes

Sign up for the MetalTalk Newsletter, an occasional roundup of the best Heavy Metal News, features and pictures curated by our global MetalTalk team.

More in Heavy Metal



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Search MetalTalk

MetalTalk Venues

MetalTalk Venues - The Devil's Dog Digbeth
MetalTalk Venues – The Green Rooms Live Music and Rehearsal
The Patriot, Crumlin - The Home Of Rock
Interview: Christian Kimmett, the man responsible for getting the bands in at Bannerman's Bar
Cart & Horses, London. Birthplace Of Iron Maiden
The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton

New Metal News