Springsteen may be born in the USA, but he was at home on the Isle of Wight

Isle Of Wight Festival 2012 review

published: Tue 26th Jun 2012

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th June 2012
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£160 weekend no camping, with camping sold out
daily capacity: 90000
last updated: Tue 12th Jun 2012

If there is a god of weather, I can only conclude that it is a fickle deity, wont to torment the humans living on the planet below. He hurled stair-rods of rain down on the Isle of Wight Festival on Thursday, blasted us with near gale force wind on Friday and teased us with a warm and dry day on Saturday. Having done all this, he decided that the festival attendees were obviously not chastened enough, and so sent another bout of torrential rain through the early hours of Sunday – causing the ground in the main arenas, which were recovering nicely, to break down again. Having obviously been sated by this outpouring of weather, the god retreated, leaving the site basked in sunshine and clear skies.

around the festival site (Sunday)
We arrived on site just as Steve Hackett was taking to the stage. Steve is best known as the original guitarist with Genesis, and although he's had many solo albums, it was when he performed 'Fly on the Windshield' that he got the best response. It's an interesting thing, that if you ask most people, they will tell you that they don't like prog rock. But if you then move those same people into a field and put a prog rocker in front of them, they will sing, dance and clap along as happy as anyone else. This was most definitely the case with Steve Hackett, who got a lot of appreciation from the crowd for what was probably the most openly prog set the Isle of Wight has seen since the 1970 festival.

The afternoon at Isle of Wight Festival is often reserved for the acts of the past, and today was no exception as Joan Armatrading took to the stage, and her mellow jazzy pop fit perfectly with the sun that was now beating down quite strongly on the crowd.

Spector
While on a wander through the site to assess the current state of the ground at the site, we happened upon Spector in the big top. One of the BBCs shortlisted 'sound of 2012' bands, we were quite impressed with what little we saw of them. Their sound brings to mind the bright pop of bands such as Delays and Kaiser Chiefs, and we look forward to seeing more of them.

Back on the main stage, the legends had given way to more contemporary bands, first with Southampton rockers Band Of Skulls who performed a lively set, which bought to mind a less intense version of the White Stripes, then The Vaccines. To say that The Vaccines have had an amazing year is an understatement. They performed at last year's festival on early in the big top, and managed to pack out the tent so much that no-one could get near.

The Vaccines
This year they were given the third spot on main stage, and clearly showed that they are due the reputation they have gained. Arriving on stage to the overture of The Ramones 'Rock and Roll Radio' – the band that clearly influenced them (or the band they ripped off, depending on your view), the songs are still holding good a year on, and the crowd jumped, sang and pogoed their way through 'Wreckin' Bar', 'Nørgaard', 'If you Wanna', and 'Post Break-up Sex'. Even a new song 'No Hope' didn't dampen the crowds enthusiasm, with Lead singer Justin Young telling the crowd "You won't be able to sing this one, but you can still dance to it."

John Giddings, organiser of the Isle of Wight Festival has often made no secret that one of the bands on his IW festival bucket list was Oasis, and since their acrimonious split two years ago, he's instead had to content himself with getting the members individually. Last year he had Liam Gallagher's Beady Eye, this year he completed the set with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. From the moment that Noel took to the stage, it was clear exactly where the talent was split in Oasis – although Liam had the swagger and ego of the front-man, without his brother he lacks the ability to raise the music much above average. Noel by contrast, is lacking in any real stage presence, preferring to let the music speak instead.

Noel Gallaghers High Flying Birds
Despite fighting a cold, he performed of most of the tracks off the first album. But the real audience response was when he moved on to the Oasis tracks. Having teased them with 'Half a World Away' earlier in the set, he closed with 'Little by Little' and 'Don't Look Back in Anger', dedicating the latter to the Italians "ahead of their impending loss to England in the football later today" (the Italians won if you didn’t hear). The only thing that marred the set was the idiot who threw a lighted flare onto the stage during this final song, fortunately not hitting anyone, and leaving Noel looking a bit bemused. It's a shame to see that although Oasis has disbanded, the troublesome element (I won't use the phrase fans as they don't deserve that accolade) that used to follow them is still there.

Eight o'clock is probably the earliest that a headliner has come on to play at a major festival, but given the reputation that Bruce Springsteen has for playing epic sets – he played for two hours, 40 minutes at Glastonbury and recently played a four and a half hour set in Milan – the festival organisers felt that by allowing him three hours would be plenty of time for him to appear in. Arriving on stage the vast majority of the first section of the show was taken from his latest album 'Wrecking Ball'.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Bruce is an artist not known for holding back in his performances, and this is still very much the case, the stage has very little in the way of lighting, and the only stage embellishments are there to give him extra space to run around in. And run around he does, while singing he's in front of his mic, but during breaks, he is off round the stage, harrying the E-Street Band, going down into the pit to high-five the audience, even at one stage climbing onto the piano to perform.

Having seen him before and needing something to eat, we took a break to see if, between Bruce on the mainstage and the football at the other end of the arena, anyone was in the rest of the site. There was a small crowd in the big top for Ash, who've honed their sound so well that you can almost predict what you’re going to get from them. This is not a criticism though, as they are a great band, and you can usually guarantee that no matter how little you see of their show you will catch a classic song or two.

Damien Paul
The break from Springsteen also gave us a chance to pay one final visit to the Kashmir Café, where local bluesman Damien Paul, was performing to a sparse crowd of about 30 people. It was clear, he too was annoyed at the time for his performance, partly because he'd lost crowd to Bruce and football, but mostly because he wanted to go and watch Bruce himself. Despite this, he didn't rush or give his time short. And gave a good 50 minute long set, of original penned songs. He can often be found on the Isle of Wight and is well worth checking out if you have the opportunity.

Returning to the main stage, Bruce was still bashing away at his songs, showing no sign of slowing up despite having been on stage for almost two hours. If anything he seemed to step up a gear as he moved on to the classic songs, which the crowd couldn't get enough of – if 'Born in the USA' got a good reaction, 'Glory Days' got a bigger one, 'Born to Run' almost tipped the crowd over the edge, and by the time he got to 'Dancing in the Dark' he had the crowd completely in his thrall – us included. As a headline act, he has to be one of the best out there, and certainly went a long way to making sure the Isle of Wight Festival 2012 is remembered for the right reasons.

It's been a rollercoaster of a festival this year – the weather and traffic problems at the start of the festival almost threatened to drown it before it began, but actually the way that the crisis was handled, and the overall management of the site was exceptional, and there have been no reports of trouble getting off site on Monday, which given the state of the car park is quite an achievement. Add that to one of the strongest line-ups in several years, and I think once the rawness of the problems have faded, looking back it may be remembered as the event's finest year.

around the festival site (Sunday)
review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th June 2012
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£160 weekend no camping, with camping sold out
daily capacity: 90000
last updated: Tue 12th Jun 2012


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