Foo Fighters make a welcome return to the Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight Festival 2011 review

published: Tue 14th Jun 2011

Foo Fighters

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

Saturday at the Isle of Wight Festival saw a glorious blue sky across the site, and a lot of people starting to feel the burn of two nights music drink and partying. Fortunately on the main stage things kicked off in a gentler fashion than yesterday with Stornoway, whose gentle folk was the perfect thing to lie back in the sun and sleep off the excesses/start drinking again.

around the festival site (2)
Over in the Big Top, band of the moment, The Vaccines, were providing a more lively start to the day, but attempts to get near the big top were thwarted by a combination of the success of this band and the general busyness of the site, showing up one of the bigger problems with the Isle of Wight Festival – the crowds. The festival isn't a small site by any means, but it's stretched out along a long, thin run of fields alongside the River Medina, resulting in quite a cramped space with several pinch points, and today it was particularly noticeable considering how early in the day it was, nowhere on site is there space to relax or settle down and have a quiet few minutes, every venue, food area and green space is full of other people – you're constantly having to step over or round others, or if you stand still expect to be jostled and knocked as others attempt to move round the site.

Finally getting into the big top for Wild Beasts, who failed to impress, we left again to return to the main stage and Mike & The Mechanics – Genesis' guitarist Mike Rutherford's side project. As you would expect form a man with almost 40 years experience the show was well planned, with the band playing a mix of Mechanics' material as well as a few Genesis' tunes for good measure, although sadly these were all taken from the 80s incarnation rather than the far more interesting earlier work. On the other hand they did provide the singalong moment that makes a good festival experience. The Mechanics are a band with a fluid membership, and currently sharing vocal duties are Canadian Tim Howar, and one Andrew Roachford, who was allowed to perform his big 80s hit 'Cuddly Toy' during the set – to the obvious excitement of the crowd.

Seasick Steve
Seasick Steve (or Cotton-eye Joe as we overheard one person in the crowd call him) is fast becoming a festival institution – there aren't many festivals he has yet to play, and today he shortened that list by one. The thing that always gets me about this man is no matter where he plays, he still manages to make it seem like an intimate gig, whether on a stage in front of 100 people (as when I first saw him) or in front of 100,000 on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Backed by a drummer and his recent acquisition, Bass legend John Paul Jones (from Led Zeppelin as if you didn't already know). Steve's patter hasn't changed much over the years, playing rough and ready blues on a variety of home made guitars, some as simple as a piece of guitar string nailed to a plank (the diddly-bo), others utilizing Morris Minor hubcaps and cigar boxes, interspersed with stories of his time as a tramp and outcast in America. It's this homespun approach that makes him so appealing, it takes a hard heart not to be won over by him. Equally, even though his fame has grown, his own approach to life hasn't, and he's still as humble and genuinely grateful towards anyone who comes to hear him play. Backstage he was probably the only person playing that day who, after the show, climbed into his own truck and drove himself out of the site.

Iggy And The Stooges
Next up was Iggy & the Stooges. Iggy Pop arrived on stage stripped to the waist, sneering and gesticulating to the audience, he snarls his way through the opening songs throwing himself and his mike stand about the place, regularly running into the crowd. Live he is a man possessed, and it didn't seem to matter that he didn't play much that anyone knew – the crowd love him for his antics.

Comebacks are all the rage at the moment, and the latest band to reform are Pulp, and with the Isle of Wight being their first show on UK soil, excitement and expectation was high. Pulp were a band who, after almost 15 years on the fringes of music, finally saw their eccentric approach to music gel with the newfound love of all things British in the mid-90s, before splitting up almost ten years ago. From the moment they arrived on stage it was as if those intervening years never happened. The bands' theatrical flair hasn't left them either, with a black sheet blocking the front of the stage while a video sequence played out prior to the show.

Pulp
Once this was dropped away revealing the band, frontman Jarvis Cocker, wearing a green cord suit and heavy black glasses – looking every inch the lovelorn geek that is the focus for many of his songs, captivated the audience, throwing sweets and grapes into the crowd because "you all look hungry". Musically they were as tight as ever and the show was a greatest hits catalogue, largely drawn from 'Different Class' and 'His and Hers'. If you want to look deeper into their songs, the everyman nature of songs such as 'Common People' probably has even more resonance now in a recession hit UK, than it did then when the world was our oyster. But equally it's just a damn fine song to sing with – something most of the crowd appreciated.

Considering how packed the main stage was for Pulp, I was surprised to see how even more backed the Big Top was for Tom Jones. The word 'legend' is one that is bandied about a lot these days, but surely it must apply to Tom. With a career spanning six decades, he has managed to remain musically relevant through most of them, whilst still remaining essentially true to his own style. The front row of the audience was a pretty even split of men in Welsh rugby tops, carrying flags and women with knickers ready. Even the 20 minute delay in arriving didn't reduce the crowds excitement, with spontaneous outbreaks of 'Delilah' heard throughout the wait.

Tom Jones
Once on stage he started by performing songs from the new album 'Praise and Blame' – a collection of old gospel classics, before moving on to his old favourites, Luckily Tom is well known for his powerful voice, which was needed to be heard above the packed crowd singing along to the aforementioned 'Delilah', 'She's a Lady' and 'What's New Pussycat?'. As he enters his 70's he shows no signs of stopping, and when he's as good as this who can blame him.

Another man who history will no doubt confer the moniker of legend on is Dave Grohl, first as drummer for Nirvana, then as front man for the Foo Fighters he has managed to cement himself a place in history as one of the most exciting live performers. The man is almost as energetic as Iggy Pop and the rest of the band stand respectfully at the back of the stage allowing him plenty of space to run about performing every rock guitar pose in the book. Despite this running about somehow he manages to maintain strong vocals and energetic guitar-work throughout.

The hits come thick and fast – Foo Fighters are one of those bands that always surprise you as to how much of their music you know. Whilst you expect the likes of 'Monkey Wrench', 'Times Like These' and 'All My Life', other songs catch you by surprise, and 'Learning To Fly', 'Hero' and 'DOA' come at you from nowhere – reminding you why you love this band so much. All too quickly the two hour show came to an end, leaving the crowd wanting more and setting a high bar for the final day of the festival.

Foo Fighters
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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