For those of us who live on the Isle of Wight the festival build-up usually comes with a certain amount of disruption, this usually peaks on the Thursday when the nearby town of Newport becomes awash with campers looking for last-minute festival essentials or just a place to relax with a beer. This year driving to the site on Thursday made you feel that there must be very few people attending the festival this year, as the roads were quiet compared to previous years. Even though the day had been warm and dry there even seemed to be fewer revellers wandering to and from the town. But once we arrive on site in the evening it was very clear that everyone had decided to enjoyed the sun and stay on site as the crowds were busier here than in previous years. Perhaps the Thursday night line up was what had attracted people to stay on site.
We arrived in time for the second act in the Big Top– Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band, this larger than life soul singer first hit big in 1965, although he's probably best known for being the subject of Dexy's Midnight Runners' hit 'Geno'. The band and Geno himself were all enthusiastic and this was reciprocated by a crowd eager for some entertainment. Althoughfor a lot of the show the band were playing one song and Geno was singing whatever he liked over it, the crowd didn't seem to mind and his complete passion for the music (if not the integrity of the original songs) carried him through a set of (almost unrecognisable) soul classics.
The next act were UB40's Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue. Having recently seen the other half of this now fragmented band, we were keen to make a comparison between the two. Just as the crowd were getting into the first song there was a major power cut plunging the stage into darkness. To the bands credit they took this into their stride and entertained the crowd with co-ordinated cheering until the power came back. After a few minutes, Ali and gang were straight back on it to ensure that they got all they could into the time allowed. Personally I didn't feel they were as strong as the band now fronted by Ali's brother Robin, but this doesn't mean it was a poor performance, just reflected how good the band other group were. A now packed Big Top were enjoying the tunes of Rat in My Kitchen, Many Rivers to Cross and finally Red Red Wine.
Thursday is usually an evening where we try to see a few bands across the site, as the smaller venues usually have some great bands to lure you away from the names in the Big Top, but this year the line up is one of the best yet, and the evening finished off with a genuine legend - the 80s pop/punk singer Billy Idol. I was never much of a fan in his 80's heyday, but after tonight's show I have to ask myself why did I miss out. His energetic and passionate show really blew myself and the crowd away, and to be honest he could have headlined the main stage on any other night night!
This has by far been the best Thursday night I have seen and those without camping tickets have missed out on a blinder, and if the weekend carries on as it started organiser John Giddings will be a very happy man as be will the 60,000.
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