Mark Albrecht's Review
Guns N' Roses were cursed on this hallowed ground of rock in the United Kingdom 18 years previous, 2 fans had been crushed to death at this very place where they now made a second apearance as a headline band.
That however, was 18 years ago.
Unfortunately, the sound equipment had been bad all day, which i can only assume to be the extreme heat festival goers and bands had endured over the weekend. Dragonforce and In Flames were notably bad, and i was concerned how GNR would hold up with the problems. To add to that, a photographer for one of the UK's magazines had started a rumour about a month prior to the headliner announcement, tht it would be the original lineup playing, and not the current lineup, and that they'd also be playing a warm up show at the Hammersmith Apollo. This rumour died, then was re-sparked by the GNR announcement of the Hammersmith show a few nights before the Download set. Having this rumour fly around, and people asking me the night before (i'd managed to get a tour tshirt when they went on sale the previous night) if the Hammersmith show was the current or original line-up, it was obvious that there would have to be some MAJOR show to win some of the crowd over.
8.40pm: The intro tape starts playing, 10 minutes BEFORE they were due to appear onstage. I suddenly got over the whiplash I'd inflicted on myself during Metallica's set the night before, and started cheering through vocal chords that were long over-tired. Then Robin hit the first note of WTTJ, and several thousand people roared in excitement at the long over-due return of Guns N' Roses to Donington. The sound wasn't perfect, but i didn't care. the show was under way, and they'd started EARLY, something that at the time i wasnt aware they'd done before in their history. However, technical problems would lead to play a big part for this show.
After Knockin', the band retired to the backstage area leaving Robin to solo before he started Sweet Child. After SCOM, the show had to be stopped due to Axl catching himself on some wires and nearly falling arse over tit. While he was backstage composing himself, Richard Fortus played a guitar solo, and the crowd became restless at the inherent lack of momentum. Some people in the crowd even tried starting a "Slash, Slash, Slash" chant but it didn't seem to take off.
Following Richard an Robin dueting on Christina Aguillera's song "Beautiful", You Could Be Mine started. However, technical problems would raise their head again and caused another stop in the show and Axl not singing the end of the song. Ron Thal filled in on vocals for the closing minutes, and then did a guitar solo including Don't Cry.
Better had a delayed start to it, which seemed to get the restless crowd that bit more aggravated and they started throwing bottles, some filled with various liquids, at the stage. One hit Tommy Stinson in the head, and he smashed his bass and kicked it into the crowd, and it wrapped itself round a camera man. At the end of the song, he took Axl's mic, apologised to the camera-man, and said that "I don't want a piss bottle to the fucking head, I wanna play a rock show, I don't want shit to go down. I'm sorry about that, I didnt mean to hit you but don't throw shit or I'm gonna fucking go home"
After this, the band made a non stop set, with the exception of Dizzy's piano solo before The Blues. From then on, it was anon-stop rock n roll show all the way, Izzy coming on got a massive roar from the crowd, along wiht Think About You. Sebastian Bach joined the band for My Michelle, and then Izzy came back on with a Smoke On The Water intro to Patience. He remained onstage for Nightrain as well.
Then came the encore, much longer than anyone anticipated. A monster of an encore incorporating Mdagascar, Rocket Queen, I.R.S. after which, Axl said "we should record that song, then people could, like, download it and stuff" and then "I don't wanna go home, I can't say that about an hour ago". Chinese Democracy followed, and then a personal favourite, Used To Love Her which had Tommy on the drums and Izzy returning to the stage. Following that, it was a Robin solo, and then the closing song of a monstrous set, a song that can only be used to end a Guns N' Roses show, Paradise City. Then I headed off to the campsite with a smile on my face and my heart beating with excitement, having finally seen the band that were responsible for me being a heavy metal fan in the first place.