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AC/DC produce best ever Download set; Angus and co a class apart.

HELL'S bells - as AC/DC would say - what a weekend at Download! Has Donington ever seen a stronger line up - probably not? And on the 30th anniversary of the world's greatest rock festival it was the old hands that showed the new kids how to put on a show.

When I heard rock royalty AC/DC were bringing their own stage I thought their heads had got too big for their boots. How wrong I was.

Performing their first UK festival set in 19 years, the old timers steam rolled their way through the hype to cement their position as the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world.

Even before the show began their split-level stage made the 'main stage' look pathetic as it strained under the weight of roughly 10 times the amplification and gigantic inflatable flat caps.

After a Manga style animated intro on the big screen a stage show like nothing I've ever seen got on track - literally - as a giant steam train burst onto the stage amid a cloud of smoke and flames (check it out on YouTube) followed by gravel voiced frontman Brian Johnson in his customary flat cap and sleeveless denim shirt.

As the rock 'n' roll train picked up pace iconic guitarman Angus Young duck-walked his way down across the stage as the biggest set of speakers you have ever seen blasted their trademark driving hard rock to a sea of 100,000 awestruck punters.

But it wasn't just the explosive opening that made it the best set of the weekend, perhaps ever, it was the relentless showmanship and onstage antics of the Aussie band from start to finish.

For men old enough to pick up their pensions, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd travelled back in time to their Monsters of Rock debut in 1981.

Brian Johnson clearly doesn't feel old and when I saw him sprinting across the stage to leap onto a giant AC/DC branded bell and swing through the air I knew I was getting just as good a show as fans had some three decades before.

Other highlights of the two-hour performance included Angus shedding his famous velvet school uniform, down to some special AC/DC pants and a giant inflatable Rosie straddling the rock 'n' roll train, shaking her 50ft tall leg to the heavy hooks of her own tune.

And with an encore of Highway to Hell and For Those About To Rock, the first day of the festival closed with yet more impressive props as a 12 cannon salute signed off what is sure to be a seminal moment in rock history.

Earlier on Friday thrash parody band Lawnmower Deth ripped through a light-hearted half hour of crowd participation and crowd surfing and introduced the mosh-pit conga to Donington for the first time.

Later on, main stage bands 36 Crazyfists and Killswitch Engage did the best they could amid amplification problems.

Saturday brought an almost fantasy line-up for metal fans with Five Finger Death Punch, Lamb of God, Megadeth, Deftones and Rage Against The Machine, playing consecutively on the main stage.

FFDP frontman Ivan was left disappointed after his invitation to fans to invade the stage led to his set being cut short by security bosses. Lamb of God got some impressive circle pits going while Megadeth split opinions as usual. Deftones frontman Chino seemed genuinely taken aback by the size of his crowd as he played an unusual set-list of tracks from their recent release Diamond Eyes and their 1995 album Adrenaline.

Closing Saturday after their triumphant Christmas No1 Facebook campaign, RATM thrashed out all their fist pumping favourites including an apt cover of The Clash's White Riot.

Another blazing day of sunshine began on Sunday with Barnsley biker band Saxon playing most of their Wheels of Steel album.

Now a solo artist, Slash and guest singer Myles Kennedy treated the baking crowd to no less than four Guns 'n' Roses tracks from their 1987 classic Appetite For Destruction. The Alter Bridge frontman's vocals sound remarkably like Axl Rose's and Slash later claimed it was the first time he had played Sweet Child Of Mine, Nighttrain, Rocket Queen and Paradise City since he left the band in the mid '90s.

As the lip-curling antics of Billy Idol kicked off the heavens opened turning Donington from a dustbowl into a mudbath in a matter of minutes - not very nice for a white wedding!

While only the hardcore fans endure the heavy downpours for Motorhead and Stone Temple Pilots the rain cleared for Aerosmith's arrival.

Much like AC/DC, the bad boys from Boston rolled back the years for a triumphant set of iconic tracks including Eat The Rich, Cryin', I Don't Want To Miss A Thing and Walk This Way.

It's going to take a lot for Download bosses to trump this in 2011 - I think it's time for Daltry and Townshend - Who's with me?

CAPTION(S):

* CLASSIC ROCK: Lemmy from Motorhead, left, and Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots, rocking live and loud at Download 2010 (S)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jun 21, 2010
Words:845
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