So the final day of the festival has arrived and again the sun shines on a slightly breezy day. The sale of additional day tickets this year is clearly visible today as the queues into the site are far longer than the rest of the weekend. We have few set plans today so are happy to enjoy the singalong with the crowd for Scouting for Girls as we arrive, their jolly lighthearted tunes are hard to dislike and fit perfectly with the relaxed mood of the festival in the early afternoon.
Mellow seemed to be how we started the day as wandering up the main arena to the Hard Rock Stage catching the end of Alex Francis, before a solo set by James Walsh. Armed only with an acoustic guitar it’s when you strip him back that you can truly appreciate his talent and vocal dexterity. This was a set performed as an unashamed crowd-pleaser and the crowd’s calls for him to play Waterfall were rewarded with another outing of the cover version that bought the big top to life on Thursday.
Sunday afternoon seemed to be all about the chill-out and after watching Southampton singer Charley Macauley’s relaxed set at the Platform One stage, we returned to the main stage for The Shires. I’m normally suspicious of artists who change nationality when they sing but the Brighton based duo sounded so good today I was prepared to forgive them this transgression.
Next to the main stage is another regular act for Isle of Wight Festival, although you would be forgiven for not recognising her. Imelda May previously stood out for her bright rockabilly style – with immaculately coiffured hair and brightly coloured swing dresses, but she has now ditched this in favour for a full-on rock chick – dressed all in black with her hair straightened and not looking unlike a younger Chrissy Hynde. With it too has come a harder more bluesy sound. I’m glad to say that she still sounds as good as she ever did, and hasn’t ditched the old style completely – performing a set that littered with the classic rock-n-roll sound that made her name – her voice soaring effortlessly across both styles.
Another man who is known for his voice is George Ezra – in a world of high pitched boy bands, his bassy vocal always stands out on the radio, and is as distinctive live – more so than the man himself who arrived on stage without much fanfare wearing a pair of jeans and pale blue t-shirt, often getting visually swamped by the fern print banner that bore his name in giant letters.
Bastille’s rise over the last five years has been almost meteoric – and I’ve they’ve come a long way from the first time I saw them four years ago in a small tent performing to about 30 people in the middle of the afternoon. Now claiming the title of headliner support, they set about the stage like they were the headliner’s themselves – managing to put on a decent lightshow despite the daylight. Frontman Dan Smith runs back and forward across the stage working the crowd hard – and even disappears into the crowd itself to perform, followed by a cameraman and two worried looking security – the front of the stage is now pretty packed out and there really isn’t a lot of room to get him out of there should something go wrong. With plenty of hits to pick form, and a couple of judicious cover versions – who’d have thought the 90s Ibitha dance tune Rhythm of the Night could sound good as an indie rock anthem – I strongly suspect the next time we see this band here it’ll be claiming the headline spot for themselves.
All of which brings us to the headliner themselves – Isle of Wight has traditionally reserved the Sunday night for a legend of the music industry, and has seen host to some of the largest names about – the likes of The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen have all held this spot. This year it was Rod Stewart. Legend status is normally achieved through extreme longevity in the industry, but unfortunately by the time you get around to see them it is about 20 years too late – for whatever reason (voice/passion/ lack of original lineup) and sadly Rod fell squarely into this area. On the surface it all seemed to be in place – he had a decent stage prescence and his voice was still pretty reasonable. He certainly played all the hits – both his own and The Faces .so no one could accuse him of not giving value.
The problem came when you stood back and started looking at the show properly – then the cracks were there and wider than the ones on his face. Allowing the choruses to be sung by the crowd for every song quickly gave you the impression that he was no longer capable of singing a whole song anymore, as did the long instrumental breaks – where he would sit down on a stool and watch form the edge of the stage – or even leave it, nominally to change outfits, but given the lengths of some of them I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d had a nap on a bed back there at the same time. The light show and graphics were impressive, but the constant switching to clips of Rod’s beloved Celtic football club were jarring – I think by the end we’d seen every goal they’d ever scored against Rangers. Finally the whole lounge singer schtick that has probably served him so well in recent years at Las Vegas, just came across as a bit distant, and occasionally seedy – such as when he was leering over his backing singers dressed in ‘sexy schoolgirl’ outfits. For anyone who was after a sing-along it was probably a great show, but if, like me you prefer a bit more form a headline act you would be left wanting.
IT’s a shame really as it bought to a low end what has actually been one of the best IW Festival we’ve been to. Usually the Isle of Wight festival is a victim of feeling very commercial and overly busy, but the smaller site and lower numbers meant this year it has to be congratulated for delivering something a little more personal and far more enjoyable. Looking forward to next year already.
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