The annual pilgrimage to the spiritual home of rock, Donington Park, was extra special this year as it was the 30th anniversary of the very first Monsters Of Rock festival. 1980’s line-up included such legends as Rainbow, Judas Priest and Scorpions. 2010 saw the return of AC/DC to the Donington stage, headlining alongside Rage Against The Machine and Aerosmith.

Despite the frantic watching of any and all weather reports, the sun was shining as I set off towards Download 2010. The butterflies were there, excitement and anticipation abound as I parked the car in a field and began the short walk to join the 100,000 or so others queuing to get into the arena. For many, the festivities had begun a couple of days before in the campsites and in The Village, where Fallen Fate had played the previous night. From all accounts they played an awesome set and gained a lot of new fans, the only downside was that I wasn’t able to be there to see them… as a non-camper I wasn’t allowed access to The Village and all the fun it held! Still, I met up with the FF boys for a brief chat before the gates opened.  Maybe next year I’ll dig the tent out… but then again!!!

Finally, the gates were open at 2.15pm and with wristband firmly attached, thanks to a new fangled machine that resembled a torture device, I headed for the main stage! For whatever reason, the Friday schedule was much shorter than in previous years with only 5 or 6 bands playing on each stage. Unearth opened the main stage with a ferocious 30 minute set that quickly blew away any cobwebs or hangovers that may have been lurking amongst the ever-growing crowd.

With Unearth over I headed to the Red Bull Stage to see one of the UK’s rising metal stars Imicus, with their album ‘Animal Factory’ still fresh in my mind from reviewing it for the previous week. I was keen to hear if their live performance matched up to the very high standards set by ‘Animal Factory’. What I heard was a short but very sharp 30 minute set that was tighter than one of Katy Perry’s dresses! A great set that was enjoyed by the large crowd that had gathered in the tent to see Imicus play.

Back to the Main Stage for the end of the 36 Crazyfists set, I managed to catch the last three songs and was very impressed with what I heard. I look forward to seeing them properly later this year supporting DevilDriver!  Last minute replacements for Wolfmother, Killswitch Engage took to the stage next, and being one of last year’s highlights I was really looking forward to their set. Again, they blew me away, a great set. Adam D was up to his usual tricks, entertaining the huge crowd with his antics. Howard Jones’ vocals were as powerful as ever, even if he wasn’t looking at his trimmest! The travails of recent months have clearly taken their toll but they all seemed genuinely happy to be back on stage together! The hour long set seemed to fly by packed with their more popular songs and a couple of unexpected curve balls too. The last track was, of course, their cover of the Dio classic ‘Holy Diver’, made all the more poignant by the recent passing of the legend Ronnie James Dio. The crowd joined the band in dedicating the song to the late RJD with the huge crowd chanting his name.

Next up were the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, comprised of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and legendary Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, joined for their live performances by Alain Johannes. Despite the obvious technical brilliance of the band and the legendary status of its member, the set didn’t blow me away. I wasn’t a huge fan of the album and the live performance left me with the same cold feeling. Perhaps I was expecting too much from them but whether it is on record or live, it sounds like a poor man’s Queens of the Stone Age, just not as good! Maybe in time my opinion will change…

Download organiser Andy Copping then took to the stage to introduce a video remembering all of the musicians and luminaries that have left us in recent months. The VT remembered Ronnie James Dio, Slipknot bassist Paul Gray, the original event organiser Maurice Jones, Avenged Sevenfold drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, Type O Negative front man Peter Steele and former Stereophonic’s drummer Stuart Cable. A minutes’ applause was held in respect once the VT had finished.

Attention then turned to AC/DC stage; yes the Aussie rockers brought their own stage, 100 metre long platform leading out into the crowd, lighting rigs, speakers, everything! The stage was huge topped with two giant inflatable school caps, complete with devil’s horns! AC/DC had arrived and they meant business…

The show started on the video screens with an animation of the Rock N Roll Train including Angus and a couple of the Devil’s Maidens, following some shenanigans the train leaves the tracks, fireworks go off and the train literally comes through the video screen! To rapturous applause, screams and cheers Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd and Brian Johnson took to the stage and dived straight into ‘Rock N Roll Train’. For two hours they entertained the 100,000 strong crowd with hit after hit ‘Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be’, ‘Back in Black’, ‘Big Jack’, ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’, ‘Shot Down in Flames’, ‘Thunderstruck’, ‘Black Ice’, ‘The Jack’, ‘Hells Bells’, ‘Shoot to Thrill’, ‘War Machine’, ‘High Voltage’, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, ‘T.N.T.’, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’.

No AC/DC show would be complete without two things, the first is a giant inflatable Rosie… and sure enough as Brian Johnson was weaving his tale about Rosie she appeared behind them and even appeared to be tapping her foot along with the song as they played it! The second is a 15 minute Angus solo, and we weren’t let down on that point either. Complete with fireworks, and extendible platform at the end of the runway.

A brief five minute rest was taken before they returned to the stage for the encore. This was just two songs ‘Highway To Hell’ and ‘For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)’ but as they had been all evening the crowd were singing along word for word! The show ended, the cheers rang out and the fireworks began again.

A wonderful show to end a great day, a very difficult act to follow but Saturday wasn’t far away; would it rise to the challenge laid down by the Friday line-up? We would soon see…

For an alternative view of Download 2010 – Friday and reviews on other bands that played, read what our friends at Cack Blabbath have to say.