Happy Iron Maiden Day!! I mentioned in the Friday overview that Slipknot were starting to show signs of climbing amongst those elite bands who attract an absolute army of followers, but if you thought you'd seen a lot of Slipknot t-shirts on Friday, it was absolutely nothing compared to the massive array of Maiden t-shirts come Saturday. There was certainly no confusion about who was headlining that day; let's just put it that way.

As well as it being Iron Maiden day, today's main stage line up probably contained the most consistently good string of bands all weekend. It didn't start off so great though. Early on the young British rock band Young Guns(3/13) took to the stage but the performance proved to be uninspiring, and even with its short length, got very boring. The only saving grace was the unexpected Smashing Pumpkins cover towards the end of the set which at least created some interest. A few bands down the line, and this is where Saturday's real action starts to crack into gear. The mighty Mastodon(10/13) took to the stage, and whilst there were some sound issues here and there, they delivered a great set. It only became really clear when an interview showed on the screens later in the weekend that the band had been asked to perform The Hunter in full but time constraints didn't really allow it. With this being the case the set was indeed very much full of tunes from the most recent album, but it allowed for some of the real gems to shine through such as the twisted and bone crunching The Sparrow. Curl Of The Burl ignited an enthusiastic sing-along but none more so than the only track they played pre-Crack The Skye, Blood And Thunder. Strange set list, yes, but great nonetheless.

Up next were the frankly legendary Alice In Chains(9/13) who delivered a powerfully heavy set. They'll be more than made up over the fact that tracks off of the new album seemed to work their way into the set list brilliantly alongside some of the classics. Set opener, the monumental Them Bones, immediately set the tone, with the crushing riffs and powerful vocals as prevalent now as they always have been. New track Stone gets a good reaction and seemed even heavier than the studio version. As the set came to a close, it was a bit of a shame that it felt like the set had been cut a bit short, but this is certainly a band back on the rise that you should definitely check out live should the chance come about.

As stated earlier, as Saturday's main stage kicked into gear there was no real let up to the magnitude of the bands on show. Legendary is a word used a lot, I've even used it already in this review, but never has a word represented a band so much as Motorhead(8/13). Volume up, rock 'n' roll in full flow, the band came onto the stage and delivered what they do best. Despite the set list being full of wall-to-wall classics it did however end up feeling like it was dragging by the end, which was a bit of a shame. A lot of this had a lot to do with some sound issues in some areas of the arena, which will always cause that kind of detachment, but it also just felt like they were a band just going through the motions.

Next up, all the way from the desert, came the brilliant Queens Of The Stone Age(12/13) for their first ever performance at Download. It is fair to say that when Josh Homme brought along Them Crooked Vultures to the festival in 2010 they didn't exactly set the world on fire (although a lot of that is down to the fact that AC/DC brought their own stage and overshadowed almost everything in sight). This though was a totally different story. Immediately the band were able to have the crowd gripped and completely engaged, opening with the batshit mental Feel Good Hit Of The Summer and pounding out No One Knows about three or four songs in to the set just left a sense of excitement on what would come next. The new album is certainly different to the days of Songs For The Deaf and Rated R and as such it has been met with some mixed feelings, but live some of the tracks off ... Like Clockwork really came into their own during this set. Josh Homme and co looked genuinely bowled over at the end of the set, easily one of the bands of the weekend.

Up next then, the main event. And Iron Maiden(10/13), right from the start do what they always do, bring the spectacular. The set kicked off with a spitfire roaring across the arena and over the main stage as the band flew out from behind the curtain and kicked into Moonchild. Energy wise it seems breathtaking for a group as old as they are to move with the same kind of ferocity they did way back in the day. For those unfamiliar as well, Iron Maiden tonight were re-visiting the famous 'Maiden England' tour from the late eighties, meaning that of course the set list was absolutely crammed with as many of the classics as made possible by the time allotted to them.
As with any Iron Maiden set the likes of Two Minutes To Midnight, The Trooper and The Number Of The Beast were amongst some of the key highlights from the show but probably the top moment was the band's spellbinding performance of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. This absolute monster of a song had everyone gripped from the first minute to the last.

With all that said, out of the three headliners Maiden ended up suffering from the worst sound problems. Not sure what was happening but even moving around, it just felt really quiet at times. But even so, another key point is the fact that I don't feel there is really any doubt that on the weekend the other two headliners simply outperformed Iron Maiden and it feels strange, almost blasphemous to say, but it felt like we are finally seeing the beginnings of a changing of the guard at the helm of the festival scene. They've got the energy yes, but a lot of the time they don't have that unpredictable edge to them anymore. The set lists from the Sonisphere shows in 2010 showed that they can still show this side, but much like Motorhead earlier in the day tonight's performance just felt like a band going through the motions.