First appearing on the Isle of Wight, sandwiched on a line-up with Jimi Hendrix and The Doors in 1970, Saturday night headliners The Who have been no strangers to the Isle of Wight Festival. Performing on the weekend which saw the event banned from taking place until it’s resurrection in 2002 by organiser John Giddings, the festival, in more recent years especially, has showcased a much more diverse line-up than you would expect from a quintessential heritage rock festival – Jay Z’s fully charged headline performance in 2010 anyone? But this year something felt different. The mix of vintage rock legends combined with some of the freshest and most stirring new bands in the genre, made for a thrilling weekend and a welcome return to the heart and soul of the Isle of Wight Festival.
Curing any pangs of teenage nostalgia felt by any of the festival’s younger attendees, noughties pop trio Busted drew in a mighty crowd for one of the first sets of Friday afternoon. Showing off new cuts like recent single ‘Coming Home’, the three piece revisited a healthy amount of older material too, much to the delight of the Main Stage audience.
Welsh rock stalwarts Stereophonics evidenced just why they’re still a headline worthy band on Friday night. Sharing the headline slot with Faithless, the four piece hurdled straight into fresh cuts from their latest album like ‘C’est La Vie’ with singer Kelly Jones’ unmistakable live vocal sounding just as on point as it does on record. Afterwards kaleidoscopic club bangers and a frenetic light show made Faithless a safe bet to co-headline Friday’s festivities with ‘Insomnia’ predictably hitting the Isle of Wight the hardest.
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Effortlessly cool and enigmatically endearing, The Kills provided one of the first highlights of Saturday in an afternoon which also saw the welcome return of punk legend Iggy Pop. Performing cuts like ‘Gardenia’ from his recent album ‘Post Pop Depression’, Seaclose Park got to see a softer side to Mr Pop’s rigid punk persona, before returning and ripping through crowd favourite ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. Introducing ‘1969’ to the crowd the musician regaled, “I know it’s 2016 but in my mind it’s fucking 1969”, proving he certainly hasn’t lost his lust for life.
Continuing the celebration of one of the most politically charged genres, Saturday night in the Big Top welcomed a series of legendary bands associated with the punk scene, including The Damned and Buzzcocks. The latter tore through triumphs like ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ attesting that 40 years on the punk ethos is still as achingly relevant today.
Warming up the Main Stage before Saturday night’s headliners, Richard Ashcroft incited one of the weekend’s biggest singalong moments with an arresting appearance from The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ alongside the musicians’s solo material.
Although famed for singing about their generation, families of multiple generations packed into the Main Arena to catch the headline performance from The Who. Pulling out all the stops with ‘Who Are You?’ and ‘Baba O’Riley’ it was a testament to witness a band that headlined one of the first Isle of Wight Festivals in 1970 perform today still with such allure and magnetism.
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Summoning the sunshine on Sunday, one of the first acts on the Main Stage was Scottish four piece Twin Atlantic. Armed with new album ‘GLA’ (named Glasgow after their native city and set to drop in September) singer Sam McTrusty enticed the crowd with his humorous on stage quips and enthusiastic presence as they burned through old favourites ‘Free’ and ‘Make A Beast Of Myself’, as well as the weightier, sonically darker new single ‘No Sleep’.
London quartet Paves took their third performance of the weekend to the Hard Rock stage on Sunday afternoon. With a retro rock and roll sound and enchanting stage presence it’s easy to see why they were one of the busiest bands of the weekend. Elsewhere on site, and for anyone struggling to find any excitement and exhilaration in the future of rock and roll, whiskey mavericks Jack Daniels and club night This Feeling teamed up to curate line-up full of the most rousing new bands within the indie, rock, punk and alternative parameters.
Offering tracks from their recent debut LP ‘Alas Salvation’, Yak gave truly one of the most riveting headline performances of the weekend. With a youthful Mick Jagger-esque demeanour, frontman Oli Burslem courted the crowd in a charismatically chaotic style. Charmingly unpredictable, the singer’s onstage antics veered between climbing to the top of the stage’s rigging and donating his guitar to the captivated crowd, whilst gritty riffs and snarling drum beats were provided by Andy Jones and Elliot Rawson respectively.
Also across the weekend Leeds upstarts Clay brought blistering guitars and seriously infectious melodies to the stage, while Reading band The Amazons did a perfect job of making the temporary structure feel like a stadium with a scorching showcase of their anthemic back catalogue. London based quartet Judas gave Kings of Leon a run for their money with soaring riffs and Glaswegians Baby Strange highlighted delightfully scuzzy guitars as dirty as anyone who’s spent four days straight avoiding the shower queues at a festival.
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Closing the weekend Queen, headed up by vocalist Adam Lambert, crazed the Main Stage crowd. It goes without saying no one could ever come close to filling the shoes of the legendary Freddie Mercury, but Lambert definitely hit all the right notes with Seaclose Park. In a situation where it could have been easy for the band to appear as a novelty, tasteful tributes to the late, great frontman on the big screens and a blazing collection of prevalent songs cemented their status as headliners for the weekend. This year’s Isle of Wight Festival demonstrated yet again why the event is regarded as such a significant festival. With a wealth of talent, both fresh and long-standing, that outshone the sun during an almost rain-free weekend, it’s definitely another one for the history books.
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Words: Shannon Cotton