Sunday forecast a cloudy and dull day, however the weather gods don’t seem to have been listening to this (perhaps still holding their heads in despair at Depeche Mode’s performance), so instead we had the hottest day of the weekend. One thing we did notice at this early stage of the afternoon, is that alongside pints, the bars were also handing out water as well. Given that your average festival goer will often forget to drink anything without a percentage attached, this was a noticeable positive, and perhaps something other festivals should consider on really hot days as it’s bound to help the number of casualties to dehydration and heatstroke that all festivals inevitably have to deal with. The only down side was that it effectively doubled the number of plastic cups in the arena, and so once again the rubbish was quickly piling up across the site.
Sunday afternoon also coincided with an England World Cup match so a large number had decamped to the ‘Field of Dreams’ to watch. Leaving those of us in the rest of the festival to patiently wait to see, depending on the team’s performance, which version of football fan we would get for the rest of the day.
It was a fairly quiet still in the main arena when we arrived, but that meant we could get a fairly good spot to watch the second half of Jerry Cinnamon’s set – A Scottish folk singer in the Frank Turner/Beans on Toast mould. Like them his mix of deceptively simple rhythms matched with often alarmingly honest observations of life and love was one of the early highlights for us, and set up the day nicely.
Once again today the main stage held all the aces for us and we kicked off properly with Hurts who gave a pretty decent set, the only concern was the worrying outfits they’d gone for – Singer Theo Hutchcraft wore a rather alarming gold lamé shirt (presumably to mark the festivals golden jubilee), while his colleague in the band Adam Anderson wore what could only be described as Hipster Amish. Another act with a singular dress sense was Sheryl Crow, who arriving on stage in a metallic blue jacket simply bled American off the stage. Launching straight into ‘A Change Would Do You Good’ she then barreled through a frantic setlist that included almost all her big hits within the short 40 minute set she’d been assigned. Raising the bar again for the rest of the afternoon.
As the heat of the day increased, we decided to decamp from the almost shelter-less main stage in search of shade – first ‘enjoying’ the karaoke in the Kiwi Camp (as well as a rather nice Iced Cider that went down entirely too easily). Then moving into the shelter of the Platform One tent to enjoy a performance from Claydon Conner, whose easy laid back, Eagles/country sound further chilled us out before we heading out into the heat for the artist I had been looking forward to most the whole weekend.
Van Morrison is one of those artist with a singular influence down the years – often at apparent odds with what’s popular at the time, he continues to tread a path of what interests him, moving from his early folk days, through the celtic spirituality (and a dubious collaboration with Cliff Richard), to his ongoing love affair with classic soul and blues. Along the way he has developed a bit of a reputation for being a bit grumpy, and determined to do what he wants in the pursuit of his art – whether it’s obstinately refusing to play some of his biggest songs, to walking off stage after a couple of songs because the vibe wasn’t correct.
Thankfully today he was in, for him at least, a happy mood. In the style of the classic soul singers, he was tightly surrounded on the stage by his band, who started things off without him, then introduced him on stage halfway through the first song. He then ambles in a pin-stripe suit and trilby, on playing a saxophone, and performing with a solid gold mic and stand. When he did sing it was in his trademark gruff slightly rambling style, pausing only to play harmonica on occasions. Thankfully rather than a set of obscure blues, he treated us to a set including all of his biggest hits (even the Cliff one). Much to the rapture of the audience, finishing with a back-to-back of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Gloria". As he wandered back off the stage leaving the band to finish up, it occurred to me that he hadn’t actually said a word to, or even acknowledged the audience once. In other acts this would have come across as miserable, but instead he’d managed a far harder trick of connecting deeply with the audience through the music. Genius is a word bandied about a lot, but I think in this case, Van certainly deserves it.
After a typically energetic and hit-packed set form the staples of the festival circuit Manic Street Preachers, it was all too soon time for the headliner of the evening, and the weekend. The Killers are a band that have had a rocky ride the last few years, which saw the band pretty much burn out and fall out after the stresses of ten years almost constant performing. Having taken a break form music (and each other), they came back earlier this year with a new album, which, while it may not reach the heights of their early work, was well received by critics and fans. However to really appreciate the Killers genius you really do need to see them live, as their recorded output doesn’t totally do them justice. While there’s a lot of debate over whether Brandon Flowers can actually sing, and his voice does take on the characteristics of a fog-horn at times, you can’t deny that as a frontman he’s a complete natural – moving so fast around the stage at times he almost appeared to be in two places at once. Wearing a pink glittery suit that brought to mind the faded casino shows of his home town Las Vegas, it’s the showman that we’ve all come to see. And give a show they certainly do – At one point Brandon compares the band to that other showman Evel Knieval, admitting that “You didn’t come to see him jump, you came to see him try.” The same is true of The Killers – the songs are largely bombast and sixth-form lyrics (Are we human or are we dancers? being a prime example), but somehow in the bands hands they manage to make them something more. Brandon seems to truly believe in the music, and in so doing makes us believe them. As if he comes from some utopia where if we all join hands we really will come together in a happy place. And for that moment blasting high notes form a mini stage above the rest of the band on a warm summers evening – maybe he’s right.
As the final notes of The Killers fade below the firework show, and as the crowds disappear to watch Travis in the big top or extend the weekend by dancing themselves stupid in the DJ venues, We come to the conclusion that while the Isle of Wight festival 2018 may not have been the most exciting on paper, it has come together in a way that is greater than the sum of its parts. If they could just do something about the waste that again litters the main arena then it could well be a perfect weekend.
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