Isle of Wight Festival 2017: The Full Report

A star studded line up spanning the decades stuns the large island crowd.

One of the most famous of music festivals, Isle of Wight Festival, based in Newport signals the start of the festival season alongside Download Festival which takes place across the same weekend at Donnington Park. Steeped in history, Isle of Wight Festival has historically played host to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Fleetwood Mac and many more legendary artists and this year saw the event bringing Arcade Fire, Rod Stewart, David Guetta and Run-DMC to the island off the south of England.

Dull weather could not deter The Music Radar UK from reaching the site at the fairly early time of 9:00am, joining a small crowd of likeminded people in high spirits for what looked to be like a wonderful weekend. Despite being informed that gates would open at 10:00am, it wasn’t until 11:30am that we finally made our way through into the what would be our base for the coming four days. Whilst set up and in jubilant spirit, the weather had other ideas for us all. Rain decided to enter the scene just before the exclusive Thursday night music performances got underway for those people who opted to camp for the three days instead of taking a day ticket option, an option which organisers chose not to offer over the last few years. In The Big Top, former indie heroes Starsailor rattled through their back catalogue with great effectiveness before Razorlight, led by the energetic Johnny Borrell delivered a set packed with hits. Despite rain lashing down in extreme proportion, Borrell and co. put on a spectacular show for all watching. Over at the Jack Daniels tent, there were signs of bands really making a name for themselves. Yonaka and BlackWaters, two artists featured by The Music Radar UK both played brilliantly charismatic sets that saw them gain another group of fans.

Time cleared away the rain throughout Friday so that when proceedings started on the Main Stage, Nothing But Thieves came out to a sun filled sky and a large crowd. Singer Conor Mason shined with his soaring vocals and the anthems of Amsterdam, Trip Switch and Ban All The Music sounded incredible in the early evening in Newport. Two time BRIT winner Rag’n’Bone Man was next to take to the stage, with a stunning vocal led set bringing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. A stripped back rendition of Skin alongside major hit Human were noticeable highlights in what was a flawless performance that received a response that seemed to take the singer by complete surprise. Over at The Big Top, crowds packed in to see Alison Moyet deliver a spectacular set of hits from across her career before The Pretenders came on to deliver a stylish show of their own. The Kaiser Chiefs, fronted by former judge of The Voice UK Ricky Wilson, rocked the Main Stage with swagger and style, performing hits Ruby, Oh My God, and I Predict A Riot which pleased a crowd spanning various ages. Wilson’s stage persona was a pleasant surprise for many, and it really showed a better quality to the band than we’ve seen before.

Following the Kaiser Chiefs was one of the festival’s most anticipated sets. Hip Hop legends Run-DMC made a rare live performance in 2017 full of legendary tracks including It’s Tricky, Peter Piper and Walk This Way. The two surviving members showed that they are still a force to be reckoned with and their staggering personas filled the stage across their set which was a perfect way to warm up the site for David Guetta’s hit filled headline set. The French superstar DJ produced a staggering light display, which featured lasers and flames alongside huge mixes from across his back catalogue plus the live debut of 2U, his new collaboration with Justin Bieber. Guetta’s set was a moment to relish one of the world’s most in demand DJ’s and it seemed to ignite the atmosphere in the crowd for the rest of the weekend.

Sharlene Spitari of Texas

A sun filled Saturday started on the Main Stage with upcoming indie pop band Nakamarra, who with their brilliant lead singer showed real signs of potential for the future. Dutch alternative band MY BABY were on odd spectacle for the small crowd gathered to dance whilst The Slow Readers Club delivered a wonderful set of alternative rock to a crowd filled with dedicated fans. Keane frontman Tom Chaplin performed a set filled with tracks from his debut solo record The River alongside a few classic Keane tracks whilst acoustic mastermind Jack Savoretti shone with his husky and raw vocal style. The Kashmir Cafe gathered a staggeringly large crowd midway through the afternoon for a special set from former rock heroes Wheatus. The set actually prompted an apology given that some fans couldn’t get into the venue, such was the popularity of the set. Former Spice Girl Mel C lit up The Big Top whilst the Sharleen Spitari led Texas gave an enigmatic performance which built up the crowd ahead of what was to be an incredible evening of music. Spitari graced the Main Stage and never seemed quite satisfied with the energy levels inside the festival that by the end of the set, had the crowd so worked up it was a treat to see.

With the crowd already hyped up, the arrival of indie rock legends The Kooks was only going to increase the atmosphere more. Delivering a set that spanned across the whole ten years of the band’s history, they showed everyone that they were still at the top of their game. Whilst Naive, Seaside, Ooh La and She Moves In Her Own Way were glorious parts of their hour on stage, the noticeable highlight of their set might have been frontman Luke Pritchard’s general election commentary in which he stated “Whatever your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that Theresa May is a twat.” Whilst indie’s past heroes left the stage in a blaze of glory, the genre’s current heroes Catfish & The Bottlemen stepped up to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. With a set covering tracks from both of their stunning albums, their set was a fierce message that they could be festival headliners in the near future.

Pop star Zara Larsson gave a polished pop performance at The Big Top whilst over at the Main Stage, Saturday headliners Arcade Fire came out to start with their jubilant anthem Wake Up. Across their headline set they performed a mixture of hits, many from their debut album Funeral, whilst also including latest single Everything Now. The set was played across stunning staging which included large mirrors, a reflective piano and a large rectangular container which projected images as well as mixed smoke and colour. Whilst it was a standard spectacle from the band’s standards, there were moments were not everything seemed to gel. Whether it was the change in set which included the decision not to play track’s like Keep The Car Running and Normal Person or just a lack of cohesion as the group prepare to incorporate new track’s into their live show, something just didn’t seem right. Both The Kooks and Catfish & The Bottlemen delivered staggering sets to an audience who knew their sound whilst many in the crowd knew little of Arcade Fire’s back catalogue. It was a risk from the festival organisers to book an alternative band for such a mainstream festival and whilst Arcade Fire are one of the greatest band’s from the last 15 years, it seems as if the decision did not work.

Arcade Fire

The final day of festival came in a wave of heat and sun. A glorious day started with the legendary Scouting For Girls, who delivered a set of best hits to a huge crowd gathered early in the afternoon. The Vamps, one of the country’s biggest pop bands, came out to a swarm of teenagers screaming along to the whole set. However, the band’s personas lacked at certain parts of the show, which gave the set a slightly cringey nature to it. Over at The Big Top, rock was the main genre on display. One of the country’s most promising rising bands, The Amazons, delivered one of the best sets of the weekend. Their set, filled with tracks from their self titled debut album was performed to a packed tent of eager fans who were blown away with singer Matt Homson’s stunning vocals and the band’s thundering sound. The Sherlocks, another rising indie rock band, similar to the Courteeners took to the stage after The Amazons and also gave a performance to wow the expecting crowd.

Back over on the Main Stage, Imelda May was giving a spellbinding performance filled with Irish charm which went down a treat amongst the sun. George Ezra’s approachable sound was also a pleasure to behold. Mixing tracks from his successful debut album with new, unheard singles from the upcoming second record, Ezra charmed the crowd with his beautifully booming voice. Following George Ezra’s Sunday marvel, Bastille stepped up to even greater expectations. As one of the country’s biggest artists, the band have seen their profile soar over the last few years and the crowd that was present before they stepped to the stage showed just exactly how big they have become. With a stunning stage layout filled with platforms and rolling credits which hint slightly towards a political theme, the band played a set of hits spanning indie and pop, all of which delighted the mass of people who exploded into dance and song.

Rod Stewart

Closing the Main Stage was the legendary Rod Stewart, who gathered a sensational crowd for a set of best hits. With minimalistic staging, Stewart was accompanied by a full band and backing singers who all shone at various moments. His Scottish roots were noticeable throughout, with clips from throughout his career alongside small jokes at the expense of the English. The inclusion of tracks by The Faces was a pleasant surprise and closing with Sailin’, a spectacular firework display ended proceedings on the Main Stage. At the Big Top, however, there was one last chance to enjoy some huge music from pop favourites Clean Bandit, who with hits Rather Be and Symphony, were a wonderful act to close the festival.

A festival stooped in history, Isle of Wight Festival 2017 showed everyone that it remains one of the key events for the UK festival season. The capturing of Arcade Fire and Run DMC showed that it’s still got an element of surprise whilst Rod Stewart’s set brought another legend to the stage, which had been previously graced with an abundance of legends. David Guetta delivered a stunning party atmosphere whilst a mixture of artists from across the decades provided entertainment for all generations. Undoubtedly a success, it’s going to be interesting to see what the organisers have planned for 2018.

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