Kaiser Chiefs and Joan Jet shine at the Isle of Wight Festival

Isle of Wight Festival 2011 review

published: Tue 14th Jun 2011

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£175 weekend with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Wed 8th Jun 2011

It's been ten years since the Isle of Wight Festival was reborn, and the intervening years have seen it go from a one-day, 10,000 capacity, single stage show, to the four-day, 70,000 capacity, multi stage event it is now. The Isle of Wight Festival is known amongst festival-goers for three things – Good weather, Insanely tight security, and being able to trade on its heritage as the 'British Woodstock' to draw in the legends for headliners. On Thursday night the second of these was still present as while getting into the site was fine, leaving proved problematic, as none of the entrances we were told to use were open to us, we eventually managed to get through a gate, but it's probably the first time I've ever had to blag my way out of a festival.

Boy George
Thursday night sees a smaller festival aimed at entertaining the campers who arrive that day, and the Big top was 80s night as ABC, and Boy George took to the stage. ABC were solid if uninspiring, and Boy George we were ready to write off the same way, as his opening setlist seemed to made up of slightly slowed down versions of the songs he's famous for, however, having left in search of food, we found ourselves drawn back at the end of the set, where having found his form and pace he was belting them out like a man reborn, the strange 'Hare Krishna' (a song I've never been able to decide if it was a piss-take or not) had an energy and gusto that was absent at the beginning, while 'Karma Chameleon' and a cover of Bowie's 'Starman' gave the crowd the big sing-a-longs that make these kind of evenings memorable.

Elsewhere on site the stages were given over to local acts – The Garden Stage (formerly the Acoustic Stage) featuring acts from the local music school, while the ever-brilliant Kashmir Café hosted the more established Isle of Wight acts – If you're ever at the festival, make time for this venue, it's small but has some excellent bands each year and, more importantly, is the only place on site not held captive by the corporate sponsors of Carling and Strongbow, offering locally brewed beer!

Big Country
Friday saw the start of the festival proper, with the main stage continuing the 80s theme when Big Country opened proceedings, with The Alarms' Mike Peters replacing original singer Stuart Adamson, something that given both bands were known for big rousing celtic anthems, worked very well. The crowd was one of the largest I've seen for an opening act and the band threw themselves (literally at times) into the performance making for one of the strongest festival openers ever.

They were followed by We Are Scientists, a band who's between song banter is sometimes more entertaining than the music – this time they seemed to be taking the 'spoilt musician' route, with bassist Chris Lamb complaining about the position of the ferris wheel at the back of the arena, asking if "someone could move it please, as it's in my eye-line" and lead singer Keith Murray bemoaning the fact that he got a piece of gaffer tape stuck to his foot which "made him look like an idiot in front of the audience."

Imelda May
Band of Horses, and The Courteeners were up next on the mainstage, while the Big Top were hosting the annual girls night out – an evening of entirely female musicians. We made time to head over to see the excellent Imelda May, whose rockabilly anthems and incredibly strong, yet effortless voice quickly had the whole tent dancing.

It was during her performance that the IW Festival's reputation for good weather fell apart, as the skies darkened and a persistent drizzle came over the site, threatening to turn the dusty site into a mud bath. Undeterred the audience pulled on plastic bags and coats and huddled down to watch Kaiser Chiefs, a band who have previously headlined the Friday night, but now relegated to the number two spot. Kaiser Chiefs are one of those bands that it's become cool to hate, but live they are still one of the most energetic and powerful acts around. Ricky Wilson seems to have a limitless supply of energy and enthusiasm and runs around stage working the crowd who are soon eating out of his hand.

Kaiser Chiefs
Mentioning the rain, he tells them not to worry about it, as "We're made up of 70 per cent water anyway… what's a little more going to hurt". Kaiser Chiefs songs are made to be sung along to, and with each hit, interspersed with only a few new songs, the band got a bit more energy and reaction from the crowd, so by the time they get to 'I Predict A Riot' the crowd are threatening to make that prediction a reality. As they left the stage, thankfully taking the rain with them, they still showed that they have the potential to retake the headliner status, as they are still very much a band on top of their game.

The Kaiser Chiefs performance set a high bar for the headline act, the Kings of Leon. Arriving in the pit to take photos, the photographers were warned that they may have to be removed as security were worried about crushing in the crowd – there was a constant stream of people being pulled out of the melee, while those who stayed had a dogged determination despite being obviously uncomfortable. Kings of Leon arrived promptly and and played a strong set, with 'Crawl' being the standout track for me. But whilst the crowd enjoyed the radio-friendly rock of the recent albums, particularly 'Sex on Fire' and 'Use Somebody', it didn't quite do it for me, I got the impression of a band that were coasting along on their success rather than still pushing to find that next level.


Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
By contrast, closing the Big Top was 80s punk rocker Joan Jet – undeterred by the two-thirds empty tent Joan Jett & The Blackhearts took to the stage and sneered and spat her way through the set with as much energy as she had back in the 80s – the small crowd took the opportunity of a bit of space to mosh and sing their way through the set with her. When she played 'I Love Rock and Roll', it reminded me again of why I fell in love with live music.
review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£175 weekend with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Wed 8th Jun 2011


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