Thousands of metal fans head to Catton Park for Bloodstock Festival 2019 - review with pictures
Metal fans from across Europe flocked to the Midlands for four days of outstanding music and festival fun at Bloodstock this weekend.
Despite weather warnings for storms, the event near Lichfield remained largely rain free. There were strong winds, however, which caused chaos for organisers, with screens having to be taken down from the main stage and efforts to reinforce the stage lighting meant delays to some sets with Cradle of Filth’s show having to be postponed from the Saturday to the Sunday.
But spirits remained high throughout the event, on both the part of the music fans and staff, and a constant warm, friendly atmosphere made for a wonderful weekend.
The security staff in particular were absolutely excellent; approachable, helpful and jovial - it may only be a small part of the festival, but little things such as these all contribute to making Bloodstock the most welcoming and pleasant festival I’ve ever attended.
Now on to the music - and there were some incredible sets.
Topping the bill on the Friday evening was Swedish power metal act Sabaton, whose set saw the stage host a huge military tank amid piles of sandbags and concrete pillars which shot flames into the air.
A mass of fireworks signalled the start of the show, as hoards of fans below went wild.
Dressed in camouflage trousers and a black top with body armour-like plates, frontman Joakim Brodén boasted powerful, growling vocals as guitarist Tommy Johansson impressed with lightning speed riffs.
Songs such as Fields of Verdun, Winged Hussars, The Red Baron and Bismarck saw the Joakim fiercely punch the air as he gleefully threw every ounce of energy into his passionate performances.
The crowd dictated much of the band’s setlist too; singing the tune of the songs they wished to hear between performances - and the band happily obliged.
“I’ve gotta say this is the best festival in the UK for me personally,” beamed Joakim.
And it seemed many artists across the weekend felt much the same way.
Earlier in the evening on the main stage saw an outstanding performance from Milton Keynes prog metal act Tesseract, whose set skillfully combined symphonic guitar with solid heavy beats and rip roaring riffs.
Most impressive of all, however, was the incredible voice of frontman Daniel Tompkins whose vocals were absolutely pitch perfect, strong and clear throughout.
Songs such as Smile and King had the crowd fixated, as Daniel heartily leant into the crowd one on knee, between jumping up and down to the beats.
“You guys are one of a kind, what an awesome festival,” announced the 36-year-old frontman.
“Bloodstock 2019, it’s been a pleasure. We’ll see you again.”
Playing the main stage prior to headline act Sabaton was German power metal band Powerwolf, whose members each wore full corpse makeup as they performed amid a stage filled with gothic church props.
A highlight from their set saw frontman Atilla Dorn shoot flames into the air from two huge guns, as he delivered great, booming vocals with superb strength and range.
Not only were they excellent musically, but they were also fantastic with the crowd, hilariously insisting on the audience mimicking opera-like tunes with as much power as they could muster.
Numbers including Army of The Night, Incense and Iron, and Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend saw fans jump, dance and faithfully sing along to every word.
“This feels like home, thank you so much,” grinned Atilla, dressed all in black, gripping a mic stand decorated with a huge grey crucifix sword.
“It was a pleasure to play our set for you.”
Saturday, meanwhile, saw Geordie rockers The Wildhearts take to the main stage in the afternoon bringing a lively, punk-like feel to the arena amid the now very strong wind.
Songs such as Vanilla Radio and Caffeine Bomb had the crowd bopping and tapping their feet as dreadlocked frontman Ginger Wildheart joyfully and superbly delivered the lyrics.
Anthrax were up later on in the day, but due to the high winds their set had to be delayed by 50 minutes as crew members ensured the stage lights were safely fixed to withstand the weather.
But the heavy metal icons were well worth the wait, thrilling fans with high-paced favourites including Got The Time, Madhouse and I Am The Law as they astounded with incredible energy and skill.
“Thank you guys for hanging around, sorry for the wind but it’s all right, right?” bellowed frontman Joey Belladonna.
“We love this place.”
The band’s high energy seemed to infect the crowd too, with Joey demanding mosh pits - and the audience more than happily obliged; bounding around and banging their heads to the sounds of Indians.
Headlining on the Saturday was Australian heavy metallers Parkway Drive, whose set was nothing short of astonishing in terms of both presentation and delivery - and the excitement could be felt in the crowd as they awaited the band’s arrival.
Easily the most atmospheric set of the weekend, the show began with a line of figures in hooded cloaks walking through the crowd holding sticks in the air alight with fire - then on came the band and the magic began.
From musicians performing on huge, high-up platforms, to pyrotechnics, huge flames, a superb light show and even a string section - this show had a huge variety of thrilling factors which made for a mesmerising experience.
And the fans absolutely adored it.
Songs such as Wishing Wells, Prey, and The Void saw frontman Winston McCall impress with beastly deep growls as the band performed at incredible speed between symphonic interludes.
All of this, with the backdrop of the pitch black sky, was outstanding.
“Bloodstock, who ordered the f***ing cyclone in the middle of the festival?” laughed the 36-year-old Byron Bay singer.
“We’re lucky to be here.”
A top moment from the set saw bassist Jia O’Connor brought on to the stage in a wheelchair, having hurt his knee playing football pre-tour - but this most certainly didn’t hold him back, as he rocked out atop a huge platform.
A meticulously planned, powerful, memorable set - and far more than I had expected.
Sunday saw Swedish melodic death metal act Soilwork take to the main stage in the afternoon for a superb set which saw singer Björn Strid astound with rich, wonderfully powerful vocals.
The entire band was impressive in fact, delivering thrilling, hefty numbers with absolute perfect sound.
Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider performed a little later on alongside a troupe of musicians, announcing that despite the decision of Twisted Sister to stop touring, he wasn’t yet finished with performing.
“Last time I was here we were saying goodbye with Twisted Sister,” he explained.
“But I wasn’t done, I still had more to say.
“You may not go to the bathroom during my new songs - wait for the drum solo like I do.”
The witty 64-year-old shock rock icon was absolutely excellent - and most certainly still has so much to give as a live performer, delighting fans with songs new and old.
Numbers such as Tomorrow’s No Concern and American Made gave fans a taste of his latest works - and went down a storm.
But the Twisted Sister hits were of course the favourites, with songs such as You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll, We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock seeing fans bounce and sing along, throwing their fists in the air with joy.
Drawing the spectacular weekend to a close were Sunday headliners rock legends Scorpions.
And they were outstanding.
Kicking off their set with We’re Going Out With A Bang, the German idols commanded the attention of the huge crowd with stunning vocals and excellent musicianship.
Though their set wasn’t perhaps as long as I’d have liked, it was every bit as brilliant as I’d hoped for - and filled to the brim with hits.
“It’s grand to be back in the UK,” beamed 71-year-old singer Klaus Meine.
“Thank you so much Bloodstock, we love you.”
Favourites came thick and fast and delighted fans, with numbers such as Top of the Bill, Send Me An Angel, Tease Me Please Me, and Still Loving You going down brilliantly.
Blackout, Big City Nights and Rock You Like a Hurricane had the crowd bounding around in delight as they heartily sang along.
But it was Wind Of Change which presented fans with the most glorious of atmospheres, as the audience sang and swayed along beneath the dark sky - an absolutely wonderful moment, and certainly one to remember.
“We’ll see you again UK,” promised Klaus - and I, for one, can’t wait.
A tremendous weekend filled with a huge range of rock and metal, with fans ranging from small children to the elderly - and a real treat.