What happened when Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes headlined Download Pilot

The greatest British rock star of this generation truly struts his stuff headlining the Friday night of Download Pilot.

What happened when Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes headlined Download Pilot
Sam Law
Nat Wood

Frank Carter has been waiting an age for an occasion like this.

Through all his trials, tribulations and triumphs with Gallows, Pure Love and The Rattlesnakes, it's been clear that the flame-haired figurehead is the greatest British rock star of this generation. But he's never before headlined a stage big enough to truly strut his stuff. That all changes this evening.

Greeted by 10,000 screaming fans under the cover of darkness, he feeds on the opportunity like a man possessed. A faux-comic book backdrop features bats, cats and all manner of weirdness, but it's not half as wild as what goes down onstage.

Social distancing is well and truly out the window within seconds as a spectacular roll into the heaving throng during raucous opener Trouble sees Frank back in his natural habitat, soaking up the sweat (and adulation) of a front-row hardcore who've been waiting for this almost as long as he has. He stays there for much of second track Fangs, too. By the time he eventually does pause for breath, he's almost apologetic, grinning devilishly, "Excuse me if I soak this in at every fahkin' opportunity!"

In truth, the sex and swagger of compositions like Heartbreaker, Kitty Sucker and Love Games have always pulsated with class, but they expand exponentially when aired over Donington's hallowed turf tonight. The knuckledusted aggro of Off With His Head hits harder. Lullaby's understated menace feels bolder.

Holding nothing back, the guest appearances come thick and fast. IDLES frontman Joe Talbot is onstage three songs in to lend his unmistakable vitriol to painfully-relevant new single My Town. Avant-garde Chemsford songstress – and fellow Download Pilot performer – Cassyette storms through, too, but it's London-based performer Lynks (looking sort of like Sonic The Hedgehog in BDSM gear) who most strikingly grabs the attention.

It’s The Rattlesnakes’ guitarist, and Frank's main co-conspirator Dean Richardson (alongside the broader band) who deserve the most credit, though. It's they who put the fire into Devil Inside Me, and the stomp into Tyrant Lizard King. And, grinning ear-to-ear, tonight is as much their victory as Frank's. There's an exuberance to their full-throttle cover of Motörhead​’s Ace Of Spades that speaks of young men grabbing an opportunity to live their wildest dreams.

When Frank manages to get a circle-pit going around the sound desk at the back of this downsized Download setup for penultimate banger Juggernaut, there's a glimpse of that same firestarter who emerged from the belly of a shark all those years ago, too. And when he signs off with the chaotic brilliance of Crowbar – a song as good as any that will be performed this weekend – it feels like a promise that he'll be back in this slot before long, commanding even more spectacular chaos on his own unbending terms.

Fahkin' great.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes Download Pilot setlist:

1. Trouble
2. Fangs
3. My Town
4. Heartbreaker
5. Wild Flowers
6. Off With His Head
7. Kitty Sucker
8. Lullaby
9. Love Games
10. Angel Wings
11. Devil Inside Me
12. Go Get A Tattoo
13. I Hate You
14. Tyrant Lizard King
15. Ace Of Spades (Motörhead cover)
16. Juggernaut
17. Crowbar

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