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Download 2015: Black Star Riders & Faith No More

Live Review

Venue: Download Festival

The mud deepens, but you cannot stop the rock

Ambling onstage to the sound of Link Wray's gun-slinging instrumental Rumble, Black Star Riders walk a peculiarly unique line: half a tribute act to their old selves, half a thrusting new band. The setlist bounces back and forth between decades-old songs whose every nuance is familiar, and tunes that are only just beginning to creep into the average rock fan's consciousness.

So it's all the more remarkable that the new songs nest so comfortably next to the old. It helps that they're carved from such similar stone, with hints of Irish Mist and reel. Scott Gorham's guitar has found a perfect foil in Damon Johnson's, and Ricky Warwick's voice and vocal mannerisms are a spookily suitable replacement for Phil Lynott's vagabond charm. 

Bound For Glory eases gently into Jailbreak, Soldierstown pitches into a racing Are You Ready, and each segue from new to old is a delightfully Proustian rush. All Hell Breaks Loose is followed by a thrilling version of The Boys Are Back In Town as a crescendo of noise from a Ryanair flight departing East Midlands Airport perfectly counters the solo. It all closes with Whiskey In The Jar, a tribute and a triumph, looking back while moving forward. (FL)        

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As we squelch through the deepening mudbath, Faith No More arrive to taunt us in their pristine white suits and fragrant stage neatly stacked with fresh flower arrangements. "We are your yoga instructors for the evening," says Mike Patton with a puckish grin. "So fucking relax."

Reformed since 2009, when they headlined Download, Faith No More are now back with their first new album in 18 years, Sol Invictus. It's a fairly indifferent addition to their canon, a point underscored by the live versions of new tracks Motherfucker and Superhero, both energetic but insubstantial. All the same, these style-hopping masters of heavy non-metal have enough wildly eclectic musical swag in their seven-album back catalogue to wipe the floor with most of the other bands playing Donington this weekend.

Punctuating their hour-long pre-Muse set with sardonic jokes and sarcastic banter, FNM have no time for that phoney audience flattery that so many Download bands routinely attempt. They know they already have the big tunes, the sly humour and the suave attitude, so why play the grateful humility card? In Patton, who becomes ever more like a rock version of Robert Downey Jr. with every wolfish leer and arched eyebrow, they also have one of the most versatile lead vocalists of the festival, gear-shifting fluidly from booming arena anthems like Epic and We Care A Lot to lounge jazz, funk and soul moves. 

Their now-traditional cover of the classic Commodores ballad Easy also gets another airing, wrapped in just the right amount of warm-hearted irony. Even in semi-pisstake mode, Faith No More have great musical chops. They make it all look so easy. Easy like Saturday evening. (SD)

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