Thunder returned to Donington’s main stage on the back of successive top 10 UK albums. HRH Mag reacts to the band’s Download show.
Thunder just don’t look like a rock band
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Sure, bassist Chris Childs could be your favourite geography teacher (only so much nicer) and Danny Bowes might look more like your dad than your father’s worst rock and roll nightmare. But beneath the veneer of quiet sensibility is a band bursting with chorus-driven anthems and born to bring a sunny Saturday afternoon to life. Thunder always relied on substance over style and as the band fast approaches next year’s 30thanniversary they look less and less like 1989’s accidental hair metal heroes. At the same time, they sound more and more like bona fide blues rock giants. Bowes and the band’s songwriter-in-chief Luke Morley (he still has the rock star looks to complement those blazing hooks) have always had a happy knack for penning fist-pumping festival favourites and when Thunder hit their stride nobody does ‘live’ better. Who cares what they look like when it sounds this good?
Didn’t these blokes pack in years ago?
Correct. Twice, in fact. And they even played a farewell tour for good measure. But it’s third time lucky for the those die-hard Thunder fans who stuck with their favourite band through thick and thin. And on the back of last year’s brilliant top three UK album Rip It Up it’s unlikely there’ll be a third ‘amicable split’ anytime soon. 2019 marks three decades of Thunder and the in-form quintet would be foolish to call time on a band that holds such a special place in the heart of so many British rockers. But hang on just a minute – isn’t it disingenuous to bid a fond farewell only to return to the fray? Not in Thunder’s case. There’s enough goodwill in the bank where Bowes and co. are concerned to forgive them the odd false promise and, frankly, who cares how many times they’ve come out of retirement? As long as Thunder are back we’ll enjoy sets like Saturday’s for as long as they last.
Why didn’t Thunder rip it up with Rip It Up?
Why indeed? As third band from the top, time was of the essence (even more so given Guns N Roses’ decision to start at 7.20pm and play for three hours) for Thunder on Download’s main stage and a nine-song rollercoaster was all they could cram in. Even so, given Rip It Up’s remarkable commercial success and the inclusion of some real bangers on the band’s 2017 record, it was surprising that no new material made the Donington setlist. But perhaps we’re looking at the this from the wrong angle. Imagine if Thunder had omitted Higher Ground or chosen to leave out Backstreet Symphony. What if Bowes and his buddies had decided to sideline Love Walked In and Low Life In High Places? Even the cowbell classic I Love You More Than Rock N Roll and opener Wonder Days have become popular staples of a belting festival set. There’s an argument for swapping out River Of Pain for She Likes The Cocaine but that’s being picky. This was damn near perfect on a damn tight schedule.
Are Thunder the best British band of their generation?
Those who sat through the band’s sparkling Download set would probably say so. But Thunder emerged at a time when the UK was a fertile breeding ground for red hot homegrown talent. Hit single Dirty Love – produced by Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor – might have been a cut above the competition when it broke the top 40 and not for the first time it went down a storm as the band’s Donington set closer. But back in the day Thunder were jostling for position alongside Little Angels, The Quireboys, Gun, Terrorvision, FM, The Almighty and more as the Brits sought to repel America’s west coast invasion – spearheaded by the mighty Gunners. Only Ricky Warwick’s Almighty aren’t touring these days and Download could do worse than tap into that rich seam of riff-fuelled talent a little more often. Just saying.