As the 2017 Europe tour came to a close, it was unclear whether the Not in this Lifetime tour would stop here again. A 2nd U.S tour had been announced at this point, and with a mere 20 shows played on the Europe run, it seemed likely we’d get some more. Just before that 2nd States tour wrapped up in L.A, The Europe tour was announced for the following summer, starting out in Berlin. I ended up going for two shows this time and due to the location only being about an hour from where I live, I began with Download Festival.
As my other half is as bigger Avenged Sevenfold fan as I am Guns N’ Roses (well, nearly), we decided to go for the full weekend. 30 years on from the tragedy that unfolded at the festival in 1988, Guns N’ Roses returned to Donington Park, thankfully with a ton more safety regulations in this day and age. When thinking about this one of my five shows, my thoughts are always with those lost, and those affected by the 1988 show, and I was thankful that in 2018 I could enjoy the gig in relative comfort.
Avenged Sevenfold headlined the Friday night main stage, who I have to say were fantastic. Full of energy, grit and a heavy GnR influence, I loved their live sound and charisma. M. Shadows, the band’s lead singer, made a point that he was a huge GnR fan, and that we would be in for a treat the following night. The band also played Pink Floyd’s Wish you were here, which was a nice link to Guns N Roses, as they too had frequently played it throughout this tour. As warm-up nights go, Avenged Sevenfold’s Friday night show was a brilliant one.
Saturday had arrived, and it was the turn of the big guns. I had managed to avoid forums and social channels for the week or so prior, as I wanted to find out firsthand how the band would perform and if the setlist would vary from the previous year. Axl Rose is notorious among fans for needing a few shows to get going, and I wasn’t interested in the negativity I knew would stem from that. The weather was nice, and had managed to stay dry for the majority of the weekend which seasoned Downloaders are not often treated to. The band kicked off at 7:20 in broad sunlight, which cannot be said for their previous UK festival appearances…
The show started off as normal, with the familiar bass notes of It’s so easy kicking us off. After a few songs, I could tell the usual Axl rustiness at the start of a run was present, but not too detracting. The highs weren’t quite as crisp as they had been in 2017 but even so, the show took a similar shape early on. That was until I heard a familiar drum beat begin but it took me a few seconds to realise that it was the beginning of Velvet Revolver’s 2004 anthem, Slither. A highlight of the show, Slither was a real crowd pleaser, and with headbanging commencing, it was my first experience hearing Axl Rose tackle VR material. I was pretty impressed. The other addition to the show was the recently released, new version of Shadow of your Love. I had speculated whether this tune would make it into the setlist, as its blistering pace filled with high pitched screams may have been a stretch for Axl at this stage in his career. Aside from a few timing issues, he proved me wrong and over the course of the tour this punky rocker became one of my favourite songs of the show.
When the fireworks were let go during the outro of Paradise City, I knew this wasn’t the best Guns N’ Roses performance I’d see, but the festival vibe and atmosphere certainly made it a unique one. The crowd at large seemed happy, with most staying until the end of the mammoth 3.5 hour set. We had another day of the festival to look forward to but the other half and I knew nothing would top Avenged and GnR’s Friday and Saturday performances. Another great show on this run had come and gone, but I was definitely looking forward to closing it out with a GnR-only show in a few weeks time, when Axl and the band were properly warmed up.