Download Festival 2017: Highlights and gallery - including System Of A Down, Rob Zombie and Aerosmith

By Kirsten Rawlins | Entertainment | Published:

Rock fans were treated to three days of stellar acts and wonderful weather at this year’s Download Festival.

Bad boys from Boston Aerosmith played their last-ever UK show at the Donington Park event, which also saw huge acts such as System Of A Down, Biffy Clyro and Rob Zombie perform.

Group online entertainment editor Kirsten Rawlins looks back at some of the acts’ performances from over the weekend.

Good Charlotte

Maryland pop-punk icons Good Charlotte transported fans to their younger years on Friday with a lively set, filled with hit after hit.

The five-piece - who originally formed back in 1995 - had the crowd jumping and singing along like teenie boppers, as they gave excellent renditions of noughties hits Predictable and The River.

Madden twins Benji and Joel were in great form too - and moved and sang as they always have, despite now pushing 40.

“In the last 21 years, the best shows we have played have been in the UK,” beamed Benji.


“This is a really special place for us. Our favourite bands are from the UK.

“And these bands wouldn’t be anything without the way you guys support live music.”

2007 hit I Don’t Wanna Be In Love followed, before the band took the crowd back even further with fan favourites I Just Wanna Live and Lifestyles Of The Rich And The Famous.

Having been a fan of the band since they released their self-titled debut album back in 2000, I would have personally loved to have seen the lads play some of their earlier material.


Seventeen years on, however, I was over the moon to see they’ve still got it. And with such a short slot, they did well to give a varied set.

System Of A Down

System Of A Down. Photo credit: Ross Silcocks

I’ve waited more than 15 years to see System Of A Down play live - and the Californian heavy metallers most certainly did not disappoint with their headline slot on Friday.

Though they did not quite give a ‘stage show’ like Sunday headliners Aerosmith, the band still put on a stellar concert which was faultless from start to end.

Led by Beirut-born Serj Tankian, the American-Armenian act took fans straight back to 2005 with mega hit Violent Pornography - resulting in the crowd bursting into life, screaming and headbanging along to every word.

The band’s sound was incredibly clean and tight throughout, with Serj and Daron Malakian stunning on vocals, with incredible range and strength, while drummer John Dolmayan impressed with thunderous beats.

More fan favourites from 2005 album Mesmerize followed - with awesome performances of Radio/Video and Dreaming delighting the crowd, who eagerly sang along.

The band then stormed through the hits, playing stellar renditions of Chop Suey!, BYOB and Toxicity with the flare, eccentricity and mania which only System can provide.

“Thank you Download - we love you so much,” said Serj.

Thank you Serj. 2011 was the last time the band played Donington Park - we can only hope we need not wait another six years for them to return.

A truly unique act, whose distinctive high-ranging vocals and rip-roaring riffs and beats sounded even better live than on record.

Biffy Clyro

Biffy Clyro. Photo credit: Ben Gibson

Saturday headliners Biffy Clyro gave a lovely performance of their many hits - but as huge crowds headed over to Rob Zombie midway through their set, many questioned whether the Scottish soft rockers were a strong enough act to headline Download.

Despite this, however, their performance sounded great - and the band soon got fans in the mood; showering them with blue and white streamers at the start, before launching into a lively yet soulful set.

Storming through hit after hit, the ever-topless Simon Neil sounded wonderful - his soft, yet distinctive vocals delivered wonderfully.

Fans faithfully sang along to every word, as the East Ayrshire band performed great renditions of Bubbles, Black Chandelier and Biblical.

The group ended on a high too; letting off huge, beautiful pink and white fireworks over the crowd before leaving the stage.

They may not have had such a following as some of the heavier acts, but they delivered nonetheless.

Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie. Photo credit: Ben Gibson

Massachusetts master of metal Rob Zombie exploded onto the Zippo Encore stage on Saturday, kicking off his dynamic set with thrilling, gritty 1998 hit Superbeast - and with that, the party began.

Stood before thousands of fans in tight sparkly trousers and a black open shirt, the dreadlocked filmmaker and heavy metal icon instantly engaged with fans - telling quirky tales and making fans giggle with daft anecdotes and bonkers remarks.

“In these trying times, I would just like to say something,” said Rob, looking oddly stern.

“What the hell is going on with all these alien abductions?

“How many people out there have been abducted and been subjected to probes?

“Now I know why you don’t mosh as you used to.”

Now he had the fans in tears of laughter - having also thrown green blow-up aliens into the crowd - the 52-year-old star got the crowd once again dancing and jumping with 2001 hit Never Gonna Stop.

As flames shot into the air from either side of the stage, fans were treated to more incredible performances - this time with electric renditions of The Hideous Exhibitions Of A Dedicated Gore Whore and Dragula, as well as tremendous covers of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out and The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop.

A phenomenal show from a tremendous showman - and one I would recommend to any fans who have yet to see him live.

Cadillac Three

Tennessee country rockers gave one of the best performances of the weekend’s smaller acts - despite admitting they were smashed as soon as they got on stage. But fans would have otherwise been unaware, given the band’s incredible gig.

Bursting on to the stage grinning from ear to ear, the Nashville trio were clearly overjoyed to be at the festival.

“We love Download Festival - thank you for having us here; it’s a real treat,” bellowed frontman Jaren Johnston.

“We’re the only rednecks here.”

The band played a number of songs both old and new; the band constantly impressing both musically and vocally - a highlight of which was Kelby Ray playing the rarely-seen lap steel guitar.

Fan favourites such as Tennessee Mojo and Southern had the crowd tapping their feet and singing along; as the band delivered a clean, delicious sound throughout.

Drunk Like You and Peace, Love and Dixie followed, before Jaren treated the crowd to a stunning, soulful rendition of White Lightening - which he dedicated to ‘to the pretty ladies’; before dryly admitting he was ‘married as hell’.

The band is set to return to the Midlands for a gig at the O2 Institute on November 17 - miss it, miss out.

In Flames

In Flames. Photo credit: Matt Eachus

Swedish heavy metallers In Flames gave an incredible performance on Sunday afternoon - with their guitarist Niclas Engelin coming second over the entire weekend only to Aerosmith’s legendary Joe Perry.

Stood centrestage in a black cap, a black hoodie and jeans, lead singer Anders Fridén sounded excellent throughout - his vocals particularly impressive on hits such as gritty number Deliver Us and 2002 song Cloud Connected.

Guitarist Anders was, without a doubt, star of the show however - and particularly shone on thunderous hit Leeches. His fast-paced, intricate fingerwork and stonking riffs were simply phenomenal.

The group revealed they will be returning to the Midlands for a tour alongside Five Finger Death Punch, before ending their excellent set with 2006 number Take This Life.

They will play the Barclaycard Arena on December 17 - and I would urge anyone who has not seen them before to do so.


Airbourne. Photo credit: Sarah Koury

Crazy Aussie rockers Airbourne exploded onto the stage on Sunday afternoon - with lead singer Joel O’Keeffe as mental and shouty as ever.

But while the rest of the Warrnambool act were tight and faultless throughout, Joel’s vocals came across as very weak in comparison to his normal skill. The 32-year-old singer, whose voice is usually compared to the likes of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, were instead scratchy; as the frontman seemed to struggle to keep up with the speed of the songs.

But he was still excellent on guitar and was bursting with energy from start to end; putting on a lively, enigmatic show - even riding someone dressed as a kangaroo at one point.

“It’s great to be here again,” bellowed Joel.

“When we got off the bus here earlier, I thought ‘something doesn’t look right’ - and it’s because it’s not raining.

“We’ve brought the sun here for you from Australia.”

Songs such as Live It Up and Runnin’ Wild saw Joel and fellow guitarist David Roads impress on guitar, while drummer Ryan O’Keefe delivered thunderous beats.

A great show, let down only by the breathy, muffled vocals. But a wonderful set nonetheless.

Steel Panther

Steel Panther. Photo credit: Ross Silcocks

LA comedy rockers Steel Panther gave a stunning show on Sunday evening, filled to the brim with rip-roaring riffs, stonking beats, amazing vocals and tonnes of laughter.

The Californian tongue-in-cheek glam rock act - led by Ralph Saenz (AKA Michael Starr) - were great as ever from start to end; treating fans to songs both old and new.

“Hello Download,” bellowed guitarist Russ Parrish (AKA Satchel).

“We’ve had some sound problems today. There are a lot of bands at this festival trying to sabotage us. They don’t want us to succeed because, to be honest, we’re the best looking band around.”

And with that, the Lycra-clad glam rockers had set the tone for the set and treated fans to a number of hilarious songs, such as Just Like Tiger Woods, Eyes Of A Panther, Fat Girl and Party All Day. There were also many songs which cannot be named, due to their ‘blue’ titles.

With bassist Travis Haley (AKA Lexxi Foxxx) pouting as he strummed his guitar and reapplied lip gloss, the hilarious group played up to their reputation - and, in true Steel Panther style, invited as many girls from the crowd on to the stage that could fit for fan favourite 17 Girls In A Row.

An excellent set from a band who never fail to impress.


Aerosmith. Photo credit: Ben Gibson

Fans bid ‘Aero Verderci’ to the phenomenal rock gods which are Aerosmith on Sunday night.

It was an emotional affair - which reduced me to tears - as the icons played hit after hit after hit; with Steven Tyler acting as outrageous and bonkers as ever. Singing down into the camera, running around the stage and crawling along the floor; he really is one of the most entertaining frontmen of all time.

The Boston Bad Boys, who got together as Aerosmith way back in 1972, have so much incredible material that they could have played non-stop for hours and hours. So fans were keen to see which songs would the rock and blues giants would choose to play.

Kicking off the show with a series of pictures dating back to the band’s beginning, they then launched into 1985 number Let The Music Do The Talking - and were met by enthusiastic screams and cheers from the crowd.

Running around in a flowing pink shirt and skin-tight leather trousers, 69-year-old Steven Tyler moved like he did in his youth - proving age really is just a number. No one performs like him.

Hits came thick and fast; from 1993 numbers Cryin’ and Livin’ On The Edge, through to 1989 hits Love In An Elevator and Janie’s Got A Gun.

Fans were then cast back even further - all the way to 1975 with super hit Sweet Emotion.

And while Steven really shone, guitar legend Joe Perry was absolutely phenomenal.

Singing Peter Green’s 1969 hit Oh Well, he stunned on both guitar and vocals - delivering exquisite bluesy riffs and gorgeous husky tones with his voice.

Hits such as Hangman Jury came next, before Steven treated his thousands of adoring fans to a stupendous rendition of 1998 hit I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing.

They next performed a brilliant cover of The Beatles’ Come Together and 1987 hit Dude Looks Like A Lady - during which the crowd below barely stopped moving, singing and cheering along.

Joe even played the lap steel guitar on 1987 hit Ragdoll, before the band departed to prepare for their encore.

After a few moments, Steven reappeared dressed in a glistening beaded kimono and took a seat at a piano on stage.

“I’m so sorry for the nightmares England has had to go through,” Steven said solemnly, before launching into an incredibly emotional performance of Dream On. And it was faultless - pitch perfect, strong and beautiful.

They ended their phenomenal set with 1975 hit Walk This Way, before shooting smoke and confetti from the stage to finish.

A Beautiful show, filled to the brim with Sweet Emotion, and Drop Dead Gorgeous music and vocals.

We can only pray we may see them again.

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star. E-mail me, or phone 01902 319368


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