What happened when Guns N' Roses headlined Download

Guns N' Roses
(Image credit: Fraser Lewry)

1. This weekend has been about one band, whatever Avenged Sevenfold and Ozzy Osbourne might think. The atmosphere has been giddy with anticipation since the gates opened on Friday, fans have been attempting to remove the Guns N' Roses posters that dot the site (you could decorate the wall of a substantial room), and a vast, era-defining crowd has assembled to watch them play.

2. They go onstage early. For all the tired jokes about Axl's timekeeping, this tour has apparently run like clockwork, and this time they hit the stage before Plini (headlining the Doogtooth stage up the hill) have even finished their set.

3. It's So Easy. Mr. Brownstone. Chinese Democracy. Welcome To The Jungle. That's a strong opening.

4. They're a great covers band. Whether it's to keep themselves amused or just to fill the minutes (three hours is a long set), covers are an important part of the show. Slither shows what might have been, Wichita Lineman gives Axl the chance to croon, and The Who's The Seeker (introduced by Axl as "an old English folk song") churns with vicious intent. Then there's Wish You Were Here, The Misfits' Attitude, the piano section of Derek And The Dominoes' Layla, Live And Let Die, Black Hole Sun, Knockin' On Heavens Door.   

5. They could do this for years. When people wonder who's going to replace The Rolling Stones, Guns N' Roses are the answer. This line-up could easily tour every 5-10 years, charging big stadium prices for big stadium shows. They're got the catalogue, they can pull the crowds. 

6. One criticism: the set meandered from time to time. Intros were extended, solos allowed to run and run, and at times you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Gov't Mule rather than Guns N' Roses. They could tighten things up and knock 30 minutes from the length of the set with reducing the number of songs they play. 

7. Axl comes across as a nice bloke, talking of love and introducing Slash as "your fellow Englishman." And the moment he inserts “Do you know where the fuck you are? You’re in Donington, baby!” into Welcome To The Jungle is glorious.

8. Despite watching three full hours of Duff, Axl and Slash standing side by side, it's still surreal to see them together again. Belting out a blinding rendition of Paradise City to close on, with one spectacular firework ending, this is something truly special. Few bands can command a crowd this size (dwarfing that of Avenged Sevenfold yesterday) and keep everyone bouncing and singing along for 180 minutes. They said it would never happen, but don't be surprised if you see the LA boys again soon.

Guns N' Roses setlist

It's So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin' Jive
Live and Let Die
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
This I Love
Shadow of Your Love
Civil War
Slash Guitar Solo
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
Sweet Child O' Mine
Wichita Lineman
Wish You Were Here
November Rain
Black Hole Sun
Knockin' on Heaven's Door

The Seeker
Paradise City


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