IT took them two decades to return to Donington Park and a week tomorrow Sheffield’s globe-trotting rockers Def Leppard will headline Download festival again.
And while that hasn’t sat comfortably with some fans of the metal gathering fka Monsters Of Rock, singer Joe Elliott is relaxed.
“When we went back in 2009 it was a logical time to do it, a talking point,” he says.
“Back in ’86 it was Rick Allen’s first serious gig after his road accident. In that 23 years we hadn’t been back.
“It was very emotional. He was in tears, it all came back to him. When he was first there he was like ‘Can I do this?’ and in 2009 it was ‘Look what I have achieved’.
“They say your life passes before your eyes when you’re going to die; Rick borrowed that experience and his entire career rewound.
“We were well accepted. There was a feelgood factor about that night. For all the naysayers there was always the danger people wouldn’t be around because we were the last band on of the entire weekend. They could have all said ‘Let’s miss the traffic and go’.
“They didn’t. We had the biggest attendance of all three nights and the sun came out. People look at us and go ‘We don’t get it’. I do; we have catalogue, 17 top 40 hits – that’s almost as many as the Stones or the Beatles.
“We don’t have the same impact and don’t mean as much, we’re not stupid, but fact is commercially we’ve been extremely successful and just because our fans don’t make a big song and dance about it in every letters page of every magazine it doesn’t mean they’re not out there.”
Leppard join System Of The Down and Linkin Park as main stage finishers at Download – as Leppard release 21-track live album Mirrorball (out Monday), with three new studio tracks, plus a DVD of live performances and backstage footage.
Joe says they were glad to accept the invitation of Download boss Andy Copping.
“I know Andy’s had to go in and defend that, but it’s a festival. Do you think everyone went ‘whoopie doo’ at Woodstock. I’m sure they looked at Richie Havens and went ‘Gedoff, we want Hendrix’.
“On the last one we were just finishing up the tour. This time we wanted to come back and do one big festival show, to say thanks and tidy up the whole project. We discussed doing Don Valley again.”
Two people unlikely to be there on June 10 are Joe’s wife Christine and their first child Finlay.
“He’s too young. It’s so much responsibility. Christine would just end up having to sit with him on her lap in a tent or cabin and it’s no fun for her.
“She’ll either not come and stay at home or we’ll leave him with our wonderfully professional nanny and she’ll come over with me and watch the gig.
“Trust me, festivals for a wife aren’t the most pleasant thing. They get elbowed out of the way by people looking for autographs and can’t wear stilettos in mud.”
Having previously seen little need for a live album, the band spent a year off mixing takes from the Sparkle Lounge tour which ended earlier than planned because of exhaustion and family.
“We were just taking stock, decompressing, taking a breather. It really was time to just go home and take care of business family-wise.
“We’d been on the road for five years. We’d finished the American tour and we all looked at each other and said ‘Do we actually want to do this? It’s not like your house is going to get taken off you if we don’t do these 12 shows’.
“My wife was pregnant, I needed to go home. There were a lot of personal issues we all had to deal with that were more important, having done 30 years continuous service to the cause.
“You’ve got your sanity to deal with, the danger it’s gonna become mundane.
“I would rather have not taken a cheque, gone home, taken my clothes out of a wardrobe instead of a suitcase for a while, slept in my own bed for more than one day and prepared my home for the toddler.”
Win Download Tickets
WE have two pairs of Download VIP weekend tickets with camping to give away.
Simply tell me by 8am Monday what year Download began. Answer, name, address and mobile number via the email address above with Download in the subject field.
Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian aged 21 or over. Travel/camping equipment not included.
Normal Sheffield Newspapers rules apply.