Friday 14th to Sunday 16th June - Isle of Wight Festival @ Seaclose Park, Isle of Wight
Words: Alexander Bradley
Bon Jovi rounded off a brilliant weekend at the Isle of Wight Festival by defying the weather forecast to play their greatest hits and a Rolling Stones cover. Fellow headliners The Stone Roses and The Killers played emphatic sets in a warm weekend on the island.
Somewhat surprisingly though, the story of the festival has to go to The Boomtown Rats and Bob Geldof who played their first show together in 27 years on the Sunday afternoon.
The Bob Geldof that I’ve known wasn’t present but ‘Boomtown Bob,’ the maverick punk, came out in full force. Wearing a faux-snakeskin suit and Aviator glasses, Geldof jumped and jived his way through a hit packed set, rolling back the years. In reference to his amazing suit, Geldof explained that it was the only way he felt he could get ‘Boomtown Bob’ back and it certainly worked.
His voice was spot on and, as a collective band, they were very neat and, all-in-all, showed a togetherness that made you question why it had taken 27 years for them to come back together. ‘Save the World’ Geldof reared his head once or twice between songs, sending quite pertinent messages; drawing similarities in society between now and the last time they played before paying tribute to the victims of last week’s Santa Monica college shooting before playing ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’- a song performed with such clarity and emotion that it was difficult not to feel a lump in the back of your throat as Sir Bob highlighted his views on society.
Following from a over running Newton Faulkner, the Rats comeback was almost cut short it seemed as a planned encore of ‘Rat Trap’ nearly didn’t go ahead as in the wings Geldof could been seen lambasting organisers who had suggested that they were already over running themselves, but the Rats returned to raucous applause to finish their set in style.
For the festival as a whole, it was a much more intimate then I anticipated, especially as one of the elite festivals. That said, there was a sense of warmth and togetherness around the festival; possibly dictated by the line-up, there was a balance of experience and youth for the cult following of The Stone Roses combined with the younger festival go-er. That idea progressed as older audiences swarmed to the likes of Steve Harley and Ian Hunter whilst scores of youths piled in to see the likes of Little Mix and The Script.
Another real positive in the Isle of Wight I found during Bon Jovi. When a girl nearby passed out (maybe it was Jon Bon’s sex appeal?!), minutes later, 20, yes, TWENTY, medical and festival crew came to attend to the girl and that idea that they were not stretched, spending their time picking up louts pleased me and further encouraged the idea that Isle of Wight is the friendliest festival I’ve attended.
The festival began in a true cliché of British Summer Time. The sun shone on the main stage as the Palma Violets and Everything Everything kicked off with their punch-pop rock, blasting the festival into life.
Next up on the main stage was the eagerly anticipated Jake Bugg. Seeing the fresh faced Nottingham lad live for the first, a lot of the preconceptions I had about him and his style were completely eradicated. For a long time, to me anyway, it had seemed that Jake Bugg was the plug for the gap in the market left behind from the split of Oasis combined with a need for English ‘Justin Bieber.’
No. Jake Bugg stands on his own two feet. The unmistakable swagger will very likely draw comparisons to the Gallaghers but Jake is a genuine discovery of British talent. His hard work is evident from the power and range to voice; something evident throughout his songs and his set.
With a little time to kill, I headed over to the BT Infinity Big Top to catch the remainder of Lianne Le Havas. With a bluesy yet punky style, the songstress had the Big Top jiving, captivated by her beauty and this smokey voice, which is almost visible as it weaved its way through the crowd, mesmerising the audience.
Remaining at the Big Top for Fun.,the passion and energy oozed from Nate Ruess and guitarist Jack Antonoff as they played through hit after hit from the ‘Some Nights’ album. To close the set, they played an inspired cover of The Rolling Stones ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,’ before flying into ‘Some Nights’ to round off an epic performance. It was a tight, the harmonies were splendid but more so, the way a three-piece (and a few minor supports) could create such a robust noise was incredible. Fantastic stuff.
Then came a moment that I, personally, had looked forward to for a very long time. The Modfather, Paul Weller took to the main stage and well...I was not overwhelmed. I could say that maybe I expected too much and built it up too much beforehand but I just felt a little let down.
Of course, Paul Weller is still very much active in his music and his last album ‘Sonik Kicks’ saw a nod to the Weller we know and love. However, for a festival performance, I think the crowd were baying for ‘Greatest Hits’ Weller and that materialised far too late and in that, a lot of the days momentum seemed to be lost and even the clouds began to draw in over the Main Stage. It was a little too late for the whole performance but seeing ‘A Town Called Malice’ being performed live was a moment I will never forget.
The Stone Roses produced something incredible. For a sound that is so often submerged and gritty, The Stone Roses gained some real musical credibility in their live performance as Mani and Ian flew through a hit packed set as every shell suit and bucket hat danced out of time, carrying the glory days of Ian Brown’s voice through the set by reputation alone. Staying largely dry throughout, Ian Brown spent the set in his yellow parka, strutting and dancing in typical fashion, tambourine held high as Stone Roses turned hits such as ‘Waterfall,’ ‘Fool’s Gold’s,’ and ‘I Wanna Be Adored,’ into lengthy nostalgic anthems to all the late eighties/early nineties teens in the crowd.
Saturday seemed to roll on by on a very breezy and very sunny Main Stage. From Willy Mason to The Killers, I heard every act that graced the stage. I dozed through Laura Mvula and Bonnie Raitt but the combination of sunshine with a bluesy, Adele-like, Laura Mvula followed by the country classics of Raitt made for some brilliant music to snooze alongside. With the weather the way it was, the day worked and the festival organisers were very lucky for that.
By mid-afternoon, the hangover-easing, easy listening acts subsided to allow Bastille on to the Main Stage. The crowd endured a few lesser-known tracks in anticipation of Bastille’s hits and at the mid-point it got a little tedious as they stretched themselves through a 50-minute slot. I concede, they do sound excellent and they are technically very gifted but so far, they seemed caged with everything else that came around before ‘Pompeii,’ showing a huge gulf in quality between a few album tracks and an actual single. It wasn’t what I expected but hearing that one song pretty much made up for it in itself.
By the time Bloc Party took to the stage, the crowd was suitable pumped following performances by Ben Howard and The Maccabees. Bloc Party didn’t really turn up. Physically, they didn’t all turn up with drummer Matt Tong fuelling rumours he quit the band. With regards to the music, it was off- the sound wasn’t brilliant, Kele’s vocals often went missing whilst a visible lack of cohesion in the band resulted in a lot of people feeling deflated. Hits such as ‘Once More chance’ and ‘Flux’ were brief rest bites in what was otherwise a disappointing spectacle.
Thankfully, The Killers saved the day. They exploded into Mr. Brightside then played a relentless set, smashing through classics like ‘Human,’ ’Smile Like You Mean It’ and ‘When We Were Young.’
The Las Vegans epitomised the ultimate festival headliner with a visually stunning light show and stage set-up (and some pyrotechnics for good measure) whilst tearing through some blockbuster music. A few surprises were thrown into the mix as Brandon Flowers and co. covered ‘I Think We’re Alone Now,’ and The Beatles’ ‘When I’m 64’ in a lengthy but spectacular set.
Sunday at the Isle of Wight promised to be the big hitter with a star-studded line-up and it certainly delivered. Performances from Steve Harley and the Cockney Rebel and Newton Faulkner kicked off the day before the heavyweights came in.
Following The Rats, Paloma Faith performed equally as beautifully on the main stage. With a grandiose stage set up of stagehands in tuxedo’s, grand pianos and mirrors, the performance was visually magnificent. She gracefully meandered through hits from her hit album ‘Fall to Grace.’ She glided across the stage and on top of her piano, dancing elegantly until the songs ended when she would become an excitable, cutesy Cockney playing out the dreams she had for years in Camden jazz bars. With that idea, Faith took the time to pay tribute her ‘musical inspiration’ by covering Etta James’s ‘I’d Rather Go Blind.’
I found myself knowing and enjoying more of The Script than I previously imagined I would; and more than I wanted to admit after becoming very frustrated by the number of accents lead singer Danny O’Donohue went through during the set.
Bon Jovi arrived half an hour late to the Main Stage before kicking straight into a song that nobody knew. It got better as the cheesy rockers flung themselves into ‘You Give Love A Bad Name.’
The New Jersey rockers declared how much they felt at home on the island then covered Rolling Stones ‘Start Me Up’ and Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ before playing a classic triple header of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ ’Have A Nice Day’ before smashing ‘Livin’ On A Prayer.’ With Bon Jovi playing until 10:20pm, there was plenty of time to saunter over to the Big Top whilst watching a post Jovi firework display to see Blondie who were exceptional, busting out hits such as ‘Atomic’ and ‘One Way Or Another’ under a packed Big Top. A high-octane end to an amazing festival.
Overall, Isle of Wight 2013 was exceptional. The festival wasn’t my ‘dream team’ line-up but it was sublime; based on its individual merits for every who perform, it was fantastic. The sunshine did us favours (well my bright red face may disagree) and a well organised festival for all the family made IOW one of the best festivals I have ever attended. For anyone looking to experience their first festival - or broaden their horizons and try another - I would without doubt recommend the legendary Isle of Wight.
PHOTOS: Sara Lincoln Photography / Alexander Bradley