Thousands descended on Seaclose Park for a sun-kissed weekend of pop perfection
Even when the weather isn’t quite playing ball, Isle Of Wight festival can’t help but feel sunny. Despite a little rain on Sunday, the island’s annual celebration of music went off beautifully, with all ages and generations arriving at Seaclose Park to see the likes of Pulp, George Ezra, The Chemical Brothers and Robbie Williams. Here are some of our favourite moments from across the weekend.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has a disco
Despite the baking heat, Sophie Ellis-Bextor has everyone dancing. Hits ‘Hypnotised’ and ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ go down a treat, as does her cover of Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’. Later, Ellis-Bextor receives a similarly warm reception when she takes to the Barclaycard Amp Stage for a secret set. “You’re gorgeous!” she tells the crowd.
Sugababes delight on the Main Stage
There are loving audiences, and then there’s the crowd in front of the Isle Of Wight mainstage as the Sugababes perform. From their moment of pause and poise on stools for ‘Overload’ to the high-energy ‘Push The Button’, the field is enthralled – and everyone is dancing by the time they reach ‘Round Round’.
Foo Fighterz are a stellar substitute for the real thing
Foo Fighters fans find the next best thing down by the river. The tribute act draw a big crowd to the River Stage, where they play (have a guess) all the best Foo Fighters hits. They aren’t the only tribute act to make a splash over the weekend, with Arctic Junkies also delighting fans at the Electro Love Stage.
OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder plays Beyoncé and Leona Lewis
After giving thanks for the glorious weather, Tedder chats to the crowd about all the songs he’s co-written over the years for artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney. He treats us to a couple of them, including Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’ and Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’. It’s OneRepublic’s own ‘Counting Stars’ that has everyone singing the loudest though.
Jamie Webster manages to get a “F*ck the Tories” chant going on the Isle of Wight
The Liverpool singer seems as pleasantly surprised as anyone by how enthusiastically the chant is picked up and how long it goes on for. He receives a reception so warm from the crowd at the Big Top that it seems to catch him off guard, particularly when he sings about his love for his hometown in ‘This Place’. The cheers see him thumping his chest at the end of the track and roaring his appreciation.
Courteeners balance field-filling anthems with beautiful ballads
‘Not Nineteen Forever’ is, predictably, a huge hit for The Courteeners at the Isle of Wight, with frontman Liam Fray giving the indie rock classic everything he has. But it’s with ballads like ‘Hanging Off Your Cloud’ that the band really impress, bringing poignance and contrast to their Main Stage set.
Pulp are everything fans could hope for
Apparently, Jarvis Cocker and the gang had to wait until a GCSE exam was completed at a nearby college before they could soundcheck on Friday morning. It all seems to have gone swimmingly, however – their headline set is as confident, triumphant and dazzling as we’ve come to expect from the This Is What We Do For An Encore tour. A special mention must go to Jarvis Cocker’s fantastic leather boots.
Sabrina Carpenter blares the entirety of Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’
Talk about knowing your audience. Carpenter’s set opens not with the singer appearing onstage, but with a giant singalong to one of Swift’s most devasting break-up tracks. It’s only after the last note has died away that Carpenter appears onstage to lift the mood with her catalogue of infectious pop. Read our full review here.
Germein bring out superfans dressed as koalas
The Australian sister trio thank the UK audience for being so welcoming to new music – particularly those fans that have been at every show since the beginning. They then turned to welcome two of those fans to the stage, who danced around to the rest of the set in giant inflatable koala suits.
GIRLBAND are ‘twenty-first century suffragettes’
The alternative trio aren’t afraid to get angry. This time last year they were rehearsing in living rooms, they confess, but onstage they’re a force of confident rock and sociopolitical noise. “What you see is what you get, I’m a 21st century suffragette,” they sing.
Brooke Combe impresses at the Big Top
Taking to the tent with her soulful singer-songwriter catalogue, the ever-impressive Brooke Combe dazzles. She’s light on the crowd work, preferring to let her songs speak for themselves – the fantastic ‘Black Is The New Gold’ simmers with quiet confidence. She closes out with debut single ‘Are You With Me?’, which sees people dancing both in the Big Top and outside of it.
Sam Ryder plays a secret set
Ryder is one of the many big names popping up with surprise sets, and word seems to have got around. He walks out to an enormous crowd and gives an astonished laugh. “I wasn’t expecting this,” he says. “I’ve got my sunglasses on and I’m still in my pajamas.” He may claim to be caught off guard, but Ryder is a born performer, and is soon teaching the crowd every chorus he wants them to yell at the tops of their voices – which they do. Later, Ryder takes to the main stage to repeat it all on a much larger scale, with the entirety of Seaclose Park united in a rendition of ‘Spaceman’.
Gabrielle explains how the meaning of ‘Rise’ has changed
From the Main Stage, Gabrielle tells the crowd how ‘Rise’ was written in one of the darkest periods of her life, all the way back in 2000. “But I’ve had 20 years to get over my angst and pain, and it feels like a different song now,” she says. The triumph in her performance only reinforces her words.
The Last Dinner Party prove they’re ones to watch
Only one song out on Spotify, and The Last Dinner Party are ready to take over the game. The all-female outfit give us 40 minutes of glorious glam-rock in the Big Top, in which lead vocalist Abigaille dances with the crowd at the front of the barrier so enthusiastically that she loses both her earring and her microphone. Only the latter finds its way back to her.
CMAT recalls a near-death experience
“I came here in 2017 and almost died in a crowd crush at Manic Street Preachers,” the singer recalls. “And now I’m back to serve c*nt.” She’s infectiously entertaining, incorporating death drops, dance routines worthy of a school talent show, and even a duet with her keyboardist and frequent dance partner, who she describes as a “general sexy man”. The two sing ‘Crazymad, For Me’, CMAT’s duet with John Grant, with hypnotic intensity.
Anne-Marie reminds Isle Of Wight, “We’re just friends”
In an oversized checked suit, the pop star played a high-energy set including old and new hits, from cheerful nostalgic track ‘2002’ to ‘PSYCHO’, her recent collaboration with Aitch. Closing out with ‘Friends’, she gives some advice to those in the crowd who might be struggling to tell someone that friends is all they’ll ever be: “Look them deep in the eyes as you sing this song, and maybe they’ll get the hint.”
George Ezra is all smiles on the Main Stage
The following day, George Ezra will screen his film End To End, in which he’ll reveal that he fell temporarily out of love with performing live. That love seems to have returned – Ezra beamed his way through his first festival set of the summer. “You’ve set the bar high,” he told the crowd. He closed out with ‘Shotgun’, and no one sang along louder than the kids in the crowd.
FLO know their worth
A generous portion of Flo’s discography is dedicated to men who don’t know how to behave, from callout ‘Immature’ to their debut breakup track ‘Cardboard Box’. The trio deliver these put-downs with a confident, “over it” energy – it’s easy to understand why they’ve been showered with Destiny’s Child comparisons.
The Chemical Brothers light up the Main Stage
Closing out the Saturday are the Chemical Brothers, whose hour and a half Main Stage set proves why they’re considered one of the world’s best dance acts, with a set that’s as much as a visual performance as it is an auditory one. They might be there more for the adults in the crowd, but plenty of little ones were allowed to stay up late to watch the spectacle.
Phoenix performs with a broken ankle
No days off. Singer-songwriter Phoenix sits in a red leather chair for the duration of her set on the mainstage, delivering powerful, soulful vocals and jazzy versions of popular hits including ‘Flowers’ by Miley Cyrus and Lizzo’s ‘About Damn Time’. “I think these football players need to start taking some notes,” comment following act The Optimists.
The Optimists encourage us to have a “boogie woogie”
When they’re not praising Phoenix’s resilience, the Optimists are delivering bright, summery indie rock with bright, summery attitudes. “You guys look fantastic today,” comments lead singer Matt Read. “I see some of you are sitting down – get up! Have a boogie woogie!”
Chinchilla wears the tallest hat of the weekend
Family festival be damned – ‘WAP’ is an all-ages song, decides pop act Chinchilla. In a towering silver top hat, she proceeds to deliver a rendition of Meghan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s ode to… well, you know what it’s about. Elsewhere in her set, the singer delivers ‘No No’, a song about consent, so at least the kids in the audience are getting a thorough education.
Pronghorn bring cowpunk to the River Stage
The Dorset outfit draw quite the crowd to the River Stage with their jaunty brand of punk. They’re self-described as “eye candy for drinking women”, which seems to be accurate.
Toyah & Robert are an absolute joy
Listening to Toyah Wilcox call her 77-year-old husband Robert Fripp a “sex icon” is a wonderful moment – particularly as Robert maintains his poker face throughout their entire performance. The two are an absolute force onstage, covering everyone from David Bowie to Black Sabbath. They even throw in a ‘Heart Of Glass’ cover as proof of how excited they are to see Blondie later.
MIKA plays his first UK festival in eight years
MIKA’s colourful, energetic set opens with an audio amalgamation of things that make him him – excerpts from the likes of Alice In Wonderland and ‘The Good Ship Lollipop’. He appears onstage in a sunny yellow suit to play a piano version of ‘Lollipop’ that showcases his supernatural range, before jumping into the upbeat version of the track that everyone knows. Despite a little rain, he was a decided hit with the field.
Lovejoy get hearts racing
A flock of teenage girls crowded in front of the Big Top stage for Lovejoy’s set, shouts of “Wilbur!” echoing around the tent. When front man Wilbur Soot steps out onstage, the screams are deafening. “How are you guys?” he asks. More screams. “Weird,” he says. “The answer’s always ‘woo’.” The group play a thoroughly enjoyable (and lovable?) 45 minutes of indie rock.
Gang Of Youths bring the anthems
Few bands have a setlist better suited to festivals. Gang Of Youths fill the Big Top with soaring orchestral rock and stirring musings on love, death and the meaning of it all. “Who’s never seen us before?” asks front man David Le’aupepe. Screams. “You’re about to be disappointed,” he grins, with the confidence of a performer who knows this isn’t the case.
Niall Horan covers ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’
The advice to just “be yourself” onstage works better for some artists than others, and Horan is among the former. Horan’s stage presence is modest but incredibly endearing, captivating the entire field. Amongst his own hits he slips in a ‘Tears For Fears’ cover, which goes down a treat.
Blondie give One Direction a shout out
Straight after an adrenaline-pumping performance of ‘One Way Or Another’, Debbie Harry adjusts her silver sci-fi sunglasses and says, “It was very nice to see Niall Horan. One way or another – that’s the way we like it.” She’s referencing One Direction’s very successful cover of the track. Harry goes on to deliver hits such as ‘Tonight’, ‘Maria’ and ‘Heart Of Glass’ in her distinctive and always impressive voice.
Robbie Williams’ headline show is a journey
That’s how the singer describes it – a trip through his career, life and psyche, studded with hits along the way. It feels redundant to say that Williams is a fantastic entertainer, but the thought is foremost in everyone’s mind as the crowd at Seaclose Park watches him dance and sing his way through his hour and a half set, pausing to share a joke, a story, or a life lesson. He closes by performing ‘Angels’ as it’s meant to be sung – in unison with a crowd of thousands. Read our full review here.