Review of Download Day 2: Queens of the Stone Age & Iron Maiden
Ok, so I kinda went a bit overboard on the Friday night and as a direct result of this ended up sleeping through the majority of Saturday’s acts. So only two bands for this review I’m afraid, I’ll make it up to you for the day 3 rundown I promise.
Queens Of The Stone Age: 6/10
I’ve wanted to see QOTSA for some time now, not only because I’m a fan of the music but also because they’re held in such high esteem as a live act so it came as something of a surprise when I finally saw their set and found it incredibly… dull! The guys were completely static on stage with zero energy and Josh Homme displayed the charisma and stage presence of a baked potato. His monotonous and dreary mumblings between songs didn’t exactly add to the whole experience either. The band had a very stripped down stage show, just the lads and their gear really. This would have been fine if the band members themselves put on a spectacle or managed to create total immersion with the musical delivery alone yet they achieved neither.
As a big fan of the new album I found the setlist decent enough with latest single ‘My God is the Sun’ and ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’ able to hold my attention and fan-favourite ‘No One Knows’ of course got the biggest cheer of set and was incidentally the only song that actually got the bulk of the crowd going. I heard the songs I wanted to hear but the whole show just seemed like a group of guys going through the motions.
Giving credit where it is due the band was pretty tight with solid sound quality (albeit somewhat on the quiet side) but this still resulted in a boring atmosphere. Despite the massive attendance the audience seemed pretty disinterested barring the more intense fans down the front who, to be fair, seemed to be having an amazing time. I was tempted to walk off and grab dinner ahead of schedule but the band beat me to the punch and finished their set early… so yeah, not an atrocity of a show but I wasn’t exactly impressed either.
Iron Maiden: 7/10
A very cool little touch to the opening of Maiden’s performance involved a spitfire plane circling the main arena; these guys always had a taste for theatricality.
The band opened with ‘Moonchild’ and finally emerged onto the stage when the song dropped. In terms of enthusiasm all members were giving it their usual gusto with Bruce Dickinson in particular bouncing around the stage with the energy of a man half his age all the while holding an unnecessarily long mic stand that I swear never actually touched the ground. Janick kept up his image as jester of the group, twirling his guitar around at every opportunity… he’s surprisingly flexible for a man in his 50’s. Dave Murray brought his cheery and incorruptible smile while Steve Harris had his usual expression of intensity that suggested he had a cactus stuck up his arse. Pyros, fireworks, multiple backing screens, effective use of lighting and of course Eddie appearing in various iterations made for a great stage show but never detracted too much from the band members themselves.
The visual spectacle was certainly there; unfortunately something else wasn’t quite up to the band’s par… the audio. For reference I was situated about 15-20 feet to the left of the sound stage and from where I was listening the levels were all over the place. It appeared to be a mixing issue as opposed to the band since all the melodies were being played fine it’s just that they were never all turned up high enough at any one time. On several occasions guitar solos only became audible halfway through, a recurring annoyance amongst others that plagued the entire set. The overall volume was surprisingly low for a main stage performance as well, that sound engineer needs to be shot… or at least given a stern telling off. There have been criticisms across the net that people viewing from the right of the stage could barely hear Maiden over the noise from the pepsi max tent, I can’t vouch for that myself since I wasn’t near the tent but it wouldn’t surprise me. The sound was not as bad as perhaps I’m making it out to be, but compared to some other bands who played main stage over the weekend Maiden definitely wasn’t top tier.
Bruce’s voice was suffering a bit this evening due a viral infection which caused him to struggle with high notes and the faster deliveries so the likes of ‘Aces High’ and ‘The Trooper’ were a bit strained in the vocal department but on the other hand he did have some awesome moments too such as on title track ‘Seventh Son’. Not a deal breaker but the frontman was unable to bring his absolute A-game with him this time round… didn’t stop him giving everything he had though!
The setlist spanned the mid/late 80’s era with a focus on the ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ album, so you can imagine ‘Can I play With Madness’ and ‘The Evil That Men Do’ inevitably made the cut along with the usual big names including; ‘Run To The Hills’, ‘The Number Of The Beast’ and the grossly overplayed (and IMO overrated) ‘Fear Of The Dark’. More obscure classics included ‘The Prisoner’. For a Maiden fan going to his/her first concert you could not ask for a stronger setlist!
In conclusion Iron Maiden put on a good but not spectacular show and regretfully I had to regard them the least impressive headliner of the weekend – as Maiden is my favourite band, I need you to appreciate I cannot admit this lightly! The audience response was positive but nothing compared to the rapturous applause Rammstein attained the following night (I was too close to the front for Slipknot’s set to see the overall crowd response in comparison… anyone wanna fill me in?). For fans seeing them for the first time I’m sure the performance was enough for them to have fun, but having seen them 9 times previously myself I know they can do better.
Review by Al Westlake