They may be second-from-last on the second stage, on a day when all music has to stop before Iron Maiden take the main stage, but everything about Billy Talent’s set today screams ‘Headliner’. From the well-earned swagger with which frontman Ben Kowalewicz stalks the stage, to the end-to-end lights taking up its entire width, Billy Talent absolutely OWN Download this afternoon.
Ripping straight into ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’, their sonic onslaught is relentless. This is a band whose enormous popularity has somehow never translated to the UK, but who pack out arenas and headline comparable festivals elsewhere. And today, it feels like that sheer size might be translating to these fair isles.
Stopping the pit set to address the shooting in Orlando, Kowalewicz is every inch the rock star preacher: “This has to end NOW!” He proclaims, to rapturous applause. There’s nothing we, several thousand people sinking into Donington’s quagmire, can do. But right now, united by music, it feels like we’re invincible.
There’s another pause during standout track ‘Devil On My Shoulder’ during which Kowalewicz attempts some football banter – including several different pronunciations of “Maidstone” – but it’s all just gravy on the aural feast of one of the most assured sets we’ve ever witnessed, headline or otherwise.
Bolstered by Alexisonfire drummer Jordan Hastings, whose expert skin-pounding drives this incredible band to even higher peaks than they usually achieve, Billy Talent prove that it’s not the time of the slot, or the weather, but the songs and showmanship that count. And they have both in spades.