The clue is in the title, this year’s Isle of Wight Festival has been a whirlwind both in terms of weather and the music we’ve managed to catch across the weekend. After aforementioned cancellations also blighted Sunday’s line-up, the injection of rock ’n’ roll royalty on the Main Stage, as well as the fresh and inclusive faces of punk in the Big Top (we’re looking at you IDLES), made sure the rest of the day went without a hitch.
Starting off our day in the Big Top, FEET’s early 2:15pm crowd feels wasted on the gargantuan sounds that pour out of the sound system during their set. It’s bold, it’s quirky and most importantly it’s fun. Observing the five members on stage is like watching five unruly children all vying for your attention by trying to be the most outlandish. Some might question if this is a tactic to distract from a not entirely accomplished back catalogue, but this certainly isn’t the case with FEET. Their set acts an enthralling preview of their debut album which is due to drop this autumn. From the wobbling bass and lolloping guitars in ‘English Weather’ to a love song about a Hot Dog, the band may not be taking themselves too seriously on stage, but their musicality is executed with serious precision - it would be a travesty if they’re not playing higher up on the bill next year.
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As the sun starts to come out so does a healthy helping of ska. Celebrating Sunday afternoon in style, Madness take to the Main Stage armed with a setlist full of their greatest hits. ‘The Sun And The Rain’, ‘Baggy Trousers’ and ‘House Of Fun’ are just a handful of songs that ensure every member of the audience, no matter how young or old, is singing along. Highlighting the timeless nature of their discography, anecdotes and quips from singer Suggs reinforces the enormity of their career. “On this day 40 years ago, seven spotty Herberts from North London turned up on the steps of the BBC Television Centre to perform on Top Of The Pops,” he tells Seaclose Park. The political undertones that carried the Two Tone movement are still prevalent today too as Suggs refers to “Brexit schmexit” before venturing down to the front of the crowd and speaking to a young child, telling them to make sure they get an education. There’s a reflective and nostalgic theme running through their set, hit after hit, and it can’t help but make us wonder what new Madness music would sound like in 2019.
Back in the Big Top and IDLES are uniting a crowd full of people from all walks of life with their inclusive punk rhetoric. Referring to the stage’s Sunday night headliner, vocalist Joe Talbot introduces the band by saying “we’re a bit like Keane but quicker” before telling the crowd “I feel like we’re at Butlins”. Each track in the set is introduced by Talbot in his idiosyncratic way, from ‘I’m Scum’, “This song is for the pricks. Thank you to the pricks for bringing us here,” to ‘Rottweiler’, “This is an anti-fascist song. It’s not focusing on the cunts though, it’s focusing on compassion. Don’t read The Sun, it will give you cancer.” Looking around at the crowd it’s easy to spot a girl who looks like she is having an exorcism carried out upon her. Its almost as if you can see the meaning of the band’s music coursing through her veins, causing involuntary movements to each of her limbs, and that is a pretty powerful sight to see.
The penultimate act of the weekend on the Main Stage is Richard Ashcroft. Although playing in front of a band set-up Ashcroft opts to play the first portion of his set solo and acoustic. Opening with ‘Sonnet’, the singer knows exactly what Seaclose Park wants to hear, and his voice has never sounded better. Halfway through ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ the full band kicks in. Solo material is sprinkled through the set too, but it’s closer ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ that predictably garners the biggest crowd reaction.
“Good evening Isle of Wight, we are Biffy Clyro, thank you for choosing to spend your Sunday night with us.” As the sun sets on the final day of the festival, Biffy Clyro close the Main Stage with a glorious cacophony of heavy guitars and even heavier drums. As to be expected their headline set is brilliantly boisterous - so much so that vocalist and guitarist Simon Neil is sporting a nosebleed for the first few songs - rock ‘n’ roll. Overall it’s a show that has something for everyone from 2007’s Puzzle onwards. New tracks from surprise soundtrack Balance, Not Symmetry get an airing and are mammoth-sounding, seamlessly embedding themselves into the setlist, while usual suspects ‘The Captain’, ‘Wolves Of Winter’ and ‘Many Of Horror’ engage the crowd the most. Performing in front of huge light-up building blocks, it’s the perfect build up to the next chapter of Biffy Clyro.
Biffy Clyro played:
‘Balance, Not Symmetry’
‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’
‘God & Satan’
‘Born On A Horse’
‘Who’s Got A Match?’
‘Wolves Of Winter’
‘That Golden Rule’
‘Many Of Horror’
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