It seemed that last weekend on the Isle of Wight, all that glittered was in fact gold, as one of the world’s most iconic music festivals celebrated it’s 50th (Gold) anniversary. With the event firmly embedded in rock ’n’ roll’s heritage, festival organiser John Giddings brought headline performances Kasabian, Depeche Mode and The Killers to the Isle for one of the strongest line-ups in recent years.
In between sampling some local produce (some of the best cheese our photographer has ever tasted), a particularly potent 57% gin and avoiding Peter Crouch’s balls - the footballer was part of a stunt on Saturday afternoon which saw signed footballs kicked into the Main Stage crowd, because as well all know, it’s coming home - we saw a plethora of live music, and made some stellar discoveries along the way. Here’s what else went down.
As the gates open in the sizzling sunshine on Thursday afternoon, so did the now-staple This Feeling stage. Partnered this year with our pals at Pirate Studios and Pretty Green, this is the place to see your future festival headliners before they graduate to the bigger stages. As usual, it’s an inclusive atmosphere with everyone from band members and DJs to roadies and managers catching up and getting involved with the rest of the crowd. One of Thursday’s stand out sets comes from London’s The Black Roses, who pair jagged guitars with colloquial lyrics as evidenced on new cut ‘Can’t You See’.
A nostalgic indie romp in the form of Liverpool’s The Wombats also ensues on the first evening of the festival, as they take to the Big Top stage for a headline show. Fresh from a triumphant jaunt at Alexandra Palace, the trio have managed to mature musically while still holding onto the key elements that made them so enjoyable in the first place, with songs both new and old sitting in the set cohesively alongside some electro pop finessing.
Not just opening the Main Stage on Friday, but tearing it apart with one of the most powerful voices we’ll hear all weekend, is Bang Bang Romeo. Their cinematic soundscape is perfect for stages of this size and the Doncaster trio are another success story from the This Feeling camp, with the band starting out on their stage years ago before climbing the ranks. Their Main Stage appearance will no doubt help to propel them into superstardom even further. As their set comes to an end, over in the Big Top fellow This Feeling alumni JUDAS bring their soaring indie rock anthems to the big blue infrastructure for the second year in a row, doubling their audience for this appearance.
Also in the Big Top is crooning sweetheart Tom Grennan. Ahead of his debut album Lighting Matches dropping in the coming weeks, he delicately teases what we can expect, from the power pop of ‘Royal Highness’ to the country-inflected ‘Barbed Wire’, before ending on a breathtaking rendition of ‘Something In The Water’ - it’s a wash of different genres all tied together with a faultless, gritty vocal delivery.
Nile Rodgers and Chic did their funky thing on the Main Stage, inviting what felt like every person in attendance on stage with them for disco classic ‘Good Times.' Meanwhile, one of the most promising new bands across the whole weekend took to the This Feeling stage: Sophie and the Giants. We mentioned briefly how impressive the quartet were in our Camden Rocks review, and they didn’t disappoint on the island either. Each track is so carefully constructed it allows you to fully immerse yourself in their innovative sound. Anthemic set closer ‘Bulldog’ is poised and ready to be huge when the four piece start releasing more material - catch them now so you can brag to your mates that you knew about them first.
Proving exactly why they’re heavyweights in the festival headlining game, Kasabian bound on stage to ‘Ill Ray (The King)’ to headline the first proper day at Isle of Wight. They’re seasoned professionals now and their show plays like a greatest hits set, from the stomping ‘Empire’ to the intricate ‘Treat’ and the indisputable anthems ‘L.S.F.’ and ‘Fire’, it’s flawless from start to finish. There’s even time for a cover of Groove Armada’s ‘At The River’ and Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’. The band might claim to not be ‘Eez-eh’, but they sure make headlining a festival look like a walk in the park.
As the blistering sun makes another appearance on Saturday, it’s straight to the This Feeling stage for us to check out some self-confessed “R & Geez” from Rosko. Putting the “rap” in rapscallion, vocalist Bruce Breakey lollops around on stage, flitting between singing and rapping, flirting with both the audience and his own band so much that by the time it comes to him singing, “you wanna be seen with the boys,” we can’t disagree.
Over on the Main Stage, Blossoms and James Bay give us a lesson in how to wield a guitar in the mainstream music industry nowadays, both plucking songs from their recently released second albums to sit alongside their successful debuts, and it’s lapped up appreciatively by Seaclose Park.
As the sun sets, it’s time for one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. Liam Gallagher swaggers on stage and falls straight into ‘Rock ’N’ Roll Star’ - alluding to the song title, “there’s not many of us left,” he tells the crowd. It’s a Oasis-heavy setlist, which does nothing to disappoint the Isle of Wight. LG knows what the crowd wants and gives them just that, especially when he finishes with ‘Live Forever’ followed by ‘Wonderwall’, but the inclusion of some rarities like’Bring It On Down’, make it even more special. Closing the Saturday, Depeche Mode launch into a mammoth, career-spanning set that saves all the hits til last it seems. Frontman Dave Gahan strides around frenetically from the get go, capitalising on the ‘Personal Jesus’ creators captivating stage presence.
As the final day of the festival begins, we ease into the day with Manchester duo Hurts. Making a rare UK festival appearance - their success in Eastern Europe is stratospheric - it’s a very welcome addition to our Sunday afternoon indeed. Swapping the football for Theo Hutchcraft’s sultry on stage mannerisms and Adam Anderson’s intricate instrumentals, they may omit ‘Better Than Love’ from the set in favour of newer material, but their decision to end their set on the heart-wrenching ‘Stay’ is enough to induce goosebumps even on the hottest of days.
LANY’s sunkissed electro pop soundscapes engulf the Big Top later on in the day as the Californian trio wrap up their whirlwind world tour on the Isle of Wight. Opting to play a healthy amount from their earlier EPs as well as their recent self-titled debut album, if you close your eyes and imagine really hard, the dusty ground of Seaclose Park almost passes for Venice Beach.
Closing the final day of a three day festival is no mean feat, but The Killers step up to the plate and put on a show-stopping performance. Soaring on stage with opener ‘The Man’, complete with a burst of pink confetti matching singer Brandon Flowers’ glittery jacket, they cruise through their back catalogue with Flowers’ vocal often being drowned out by the sound of every single person inside the festival shouting his lyrics back to him. It’s indie rock & roll for us.