Festival Review: Isle of Wight Festival 2016

Celebrating its 15th year since its revival in 2002, the Isle of Wight Festival returned once again to Seaclose Park with a lineup featuring some of the country’s finest. This was my fourth time at the festival and the promising weather forecast meant it looked set to be the best yet.

For the first ever time, I went along to Thursday’s proceedings, featuring music on all of the festival’s stages, bar the Main Stage and Hard Rock Stage. The first act I checked out was Maxi Jazz & The E-Type Boys, ahead of his headline performance with Faithless the next day. It was great to see him performing a completely different style of music, and it seemed the crowd loved his reggae tunes. I then headed over to the Platform One Stage to watch Ever and Nakamarra, both of whom I had seen before. Both acts seemed to play well to their sizeable crowds and appeared just as confident as ever. Originally, the Thursday night was exclusive to campers, but organisers have since opened it up to all ticket holders and this meant for a packed out Big Top for headliners Status Quo. For those who were lucky enough to get a good spot, they were treated to a hit-filled set featuring all of the band’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll anthems.

Maxi Jazz & The E-Type Boys performing at the IOW Festival 2016
The first act I saw on the Friday was Reverend & The Makers and if I had a pound for every time lead singer Jon McLure said “We’re Reverend & The Makers”, I’d be a rich man. Anyway, the Sheffield band got the Main Stage off to a good start, but it wasn’t as explosive as The Struts, who opened it last year. Noughties pop band Busted then performed their first ever festival set, playing to one of the largest afternoon crowds of the weekend. The lads performed hits Crashed The Wedding and Year 3000 with huge amounts of energy, but I, and the two people dressed as Thunderbirds were left disappointed that they didn’t perform Thunderbirds Are Go. Next up was singing sensation Jess Glynne sporting an odd but rather cool-looking hair style- I couldn’t tell you what it’s called though! Jess cancelled her performance last year due to illness but more than made it up to fans with a set including hits Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself, Rather Be and Hold My Hand.

Everything Everything then played a set, and it’s clear to see that the four-piece have come a long way since their performance back in 2013. They have since released an album, Get To Heaven, which made up a lot of their set, but it was clear that the majority of the crowd were waiting in anticipation of headliners Stereophonics. I must admit, I’ve never been particularly interested in the Phonics’ music, but must also admit that their set was one of the best of the weekend. There was confetti, fire and Kelly Jones’ vocals seemed to be pitch perfect. I then headed over to the Big Top to catch the end of guitar star Joanne Shaw Taylor’s set. Discovered at the age of just 16 by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, it’s clear to see that Taylor has incredible guitar-playing ability, and this was supported well by her vocals and a backing bassist and drummer. She was followed by Big Top headliners SIGMA (Live), who performed a blistering set featuring all of their chart hits.

Kelly Jones, of Stereophonics, performing at the IOW Festival 2016
Saturday’s proceedings, for me at least, began with a performance from south-Australian sister trio Germein Sisters in the Big Top. I didn’t manage to catch them last year, so it was great to see what they are all about on a bigger stage. Although it was evident that not many of the crowd knew the lyrics, they performed a chilled cover of Justin Bieber’s Sorry, which became one of the defining moments of their set. It was then time for Irish family band The Corrs to take to the stage with a special, hour-long afternoon set. Both Andrea and Sharon Corr have played solo sets at the festival before, so it was only right that they all came together to celebrate the festival’s 15th anniversary. The band played through their back catalogue of hits, including Runaway and Breathless, as well as songs from their latest album White Light.

Not wanting to see The Kills on the Main Stage meant I headed over to the Hard Rock Stage for the first time of the weekend. The stage is now in a new location and I thought, due to its close proximity to the Main Stage, the sound would be difficult to hear properly, but this didn’t seem to be a problem at all. There was a very relaxed feeling about the stage and it was great to sit back in the Sun and listen to London songwriter Tim Arnold. Tim was recently compared to David Bowie and it was clear to see why. His voice and guitar-skills were absolutely phenomenal and the audience were left captivated throughout. He also performed a cover of Bowie’s Life On Mars, apparently only prepared two days ago- it seemed pretty good to me! It was then time for the legendary Iggy Pop to take to the Main Stage. I knew beforehand that Iggy is a fantastic entertainer, and he didn’t disappoint.

Iggy Pop performing at the IOW Festival 2016
After seeing England throw away victory in the football match, screened in the BT Field of Dreams, I headed back over to the Main Stage to watch headliners The Who. Opening with Who Are You and playing all the classics like The Kids Are Alright and My Generation, Roger Daltrey and co. played a rocking set to thousands of fans of all ages. Closing the night was a DJ set from Pendulum in the Big Top. Featuring a DJ and an MC, they made sure everyone’s Saturday went out with a bang, encouraging festival goers to rave to hits from albums Immersion, In Silico and Hold Your Colour. It was just as much a lights show as it was a musical performance but the crowd, consisting largely of youths, seemed to have a brilliant time.

I arrived on site on the final day of the festival to the sounds of Irish band The High Kings. The four-piece played sets on the Hard Rock Stage, Big Top and Main Stage over the weekend and I was quite surprised with how fun Irish ‘jig’ music can be. Admittedly though, I was there for the following act, Twin Atlantic. The Glasweigan rockers and Radio One favourites gave one of the most energetic performances of the weekend and lead singer Sam McTrusty even climbed the barrier to ‘mosh’ with the audience. They could have done with a set later in the day really. I then found myself in a situation where I didn’t particularly want to see anyone. I was hearing, however, great things about the Electro Love 80’s tent, so thought I’d pay it a visit. Local rock tribute act Riff Raff were playing according to my programme and, considering they’re a band used to playing pub gigs, seemed to adapt themselves and their setlist very well to the festival.

Riff Raff performing at the IOW Festival 2016
To get a good spot for the Sunday headliners, I went back to the Main Stage early to catch the end of The Cribs’ set. I couldn’t really understand what they were singing but it was great to see them charging around the stage and throwing their equipment around at the end. Proper rock ‘n’ roll that is. The penultimate act on the night was Ocean Colour Scene, who are on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their popular album Moseley Shoals. Spirits were dampened a little by the drizzle of rain, but they still put on a fantastic show, getting the audience in the mood for headliners Queen and Adam Lambert.

That’s right, Queen and Adam Lambert. It was hit, after hit, after hit and the crowd absolutely loved it. Even Brian May himself seemed pretty overwhelmed with the response he got. Ahead of their performance, a lot of people argued that they were just a ‘tribute act’, but I think it’s important to remember that Queen weren’t just Freddie Mercury. Adam Lambert isn’t trying to replicate the role, he’s re-imagining it, performing the vocals of all the hits we know and love. I can honestly say it was one of the greatest festival performances I have ever seen, right up there with Bruce Springsteen back in 2012 and Duran Duran at Common People last month. I thought Fleetwood Mac, last year’s headliners, would be difficult to top, but John Giddings and Solo are going to have a real task for next year that’s for sure.