Friday, 21 June 2013

Isle Of Wight Festival 2013: Final Day

by Paul Nials

After the debacle caused by the weather in 2012, it was with some trepidation that I ordered the tickets for the Festival in 2013.  However, the line-up on the main stage on Sunday 16th June, made the gamble worthwhile.  Bon Jovi, the headline act on the final day had been on my list of “must-see” bands for several years, and the knowledge that the Island was to feature amongst the dates in their latest world tour clinched the deal. When the other acts appearing on the main stage were confirmed at a later date, my decision was vindicated.

The glorious weather in the weeks prior to the Festival seemed like a good omen. Perhaps it would be dry this year after all?  Then came the forecast for the weekend itself: lots of wind and, yes, rain.  However, my feelings of impending doom lifted as the date approached and the severity of the forecast lessened.  Nevertheless, we left Ventnor on the Sunday morning in pouring rain, the rucksack full of waterproof of clothing in order to cope with anything that a typical British summer could throw at us. After gaining sustenance at a hostelry close to the Festival site, I was pleased to note that the showers had abated. The ground at Seaclose Park was surprisingly firm and unyielding underfoot as we tramped, with hundreds of others, from the entrance towards the main stage.

We arrived in the middle of the Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel set, in time to catch their best known song from 1975, “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me Sometime)”.  They were followed by Newton Faulkner, who had appeared at the Festival some five years earlier and stated that he still found it scary appearing on stage, on his own, in front of so many people!  The Boomtown Rats were next up, the band fronted once again by Sir Bob Geldorf (of Band Aid fame). They had reformed especially for their Festival gig and it was the first time that they had played together live since 1986! Geldorf showed that he has lost none of his “edge” in the intervening years and his language, which was the bane of many a live chat show host during his Band Aid years, was as colourful as ever! They bashed out their two best-known hits, “Rat Trap” and “I Don’t Like Mondays” from 1979, the lyrics of which are still pertinent today. They were so well received by the crowd, now bathed in warm afternoon sunshine (!), that they even came back on stage to play an unscheduled “encore”!

Paloma Faith had the hard job of following on from the “The Rats” but did an admirable job of promoting her latest and second album, “Fall to Grace”.  She sang most of the playlist on the album, including “Picking Up the Pieces”, “30 Minute Love Affair”, “Black and Blue”, my personal favourite “Just Be”, as well as a selection of hits from her first album such as “Stone Cold Sober” and the rousing “New York”. The rising star, who hails from Hackney, East London, where I was born, contrasted her early career singing in some of the less salubrious drinking establishments in Soho to performing in front of such a large crowd at the Festival.  Her repertoire and voice have both developed greatly since I first saw her at the IoW Festival in 2010.

Next up: the Script. Frontman Danny O’Donoghue, coach on the TV show The Voice UK, led a highly energised performance which was arguably the best received of the day by the audience.  His boundless energy, coupled with great skill in whipping up enthusiasm by interacting with those at the front at close quarters, prepared the crowd well for the evening ahead.  At one point during his barrier-climbing antics and hand-slapping with those in the front row, he took off and threw his jacket into the crowd. It was caught, as we found out later, by the daughter of one of my wife’s work colleagues who was at her first Festival! They played their full repertoire of hits, including “Break Even”, “For the First Time”, “Nothing”, "Six Degrees of Freedom”, “Six Degrees of Separation”, “Hall of Fame” and their latest song, “Millionaires”.

As the calls and applause for The Script abated, the size of the crowd swelled in anticipation for the headline act: Bon Jovi. However, the enthusiasm was cooled somewhat by their late arrival on stage --- 30 minutes late, in fact.  Now for the moan!  This is a world-class act, supported by some of the best roadies in the business, who know exactly how to set up a stage with the equipment they transport weekly from gig to gig. Their management had agreed a start time, so stick to it!  The delay undoubtedly led to the crowd cooling down (literally) after The Script went off, making it harder for John and the band to get the crowd going again. The acrimonious split by Richie Sambora prior to this world tour was well publicised in the media and I must admit I was a little anxious about the fact that his replacement in the band by Canadian Phil X (real name Theofilos Xenidis) had only been called into the line-up after 15 hours notice at the start of the tour! I need not have worried because Phil X did an outstanding job playing the instantly recognisable and iconic riffs that open many of the band’s songs. If you had shut your eyes, you’d have thought that Richie was on stage. 

As expected, Bon Jovi played several tracks from their latest album, What About Now, including the title track, as well as "Because We Can", "I'm With You", "What's Left of Me", as well as many of the earlier songs which have made the band famous, such as "Livin' On a Prayer", "You Give Love a Bad Name", "It's My Life", "Have a Nice Day", "Dead or Alive" and, of course, "Bad Medicine". Great gig? Certainly. Spurred on by JBJ, the crowd sang along, oblivious of the cool night air and chilly wind, warmed by the sense of belonging that festivals such as this impart. Disappointments? Only two. Firstly, no encore. Unheard of in this day and age, and it wasn't because they overran their slot. No. My second disappointment was that the set was scheduled to last for three hours, whilst they were only on stage for a little over two. Perhaps the timings included that annoying and unnecessarily long delay to the start? Or maybe it is because I am getting grumpier as I get older, now that I am less able to endure hours of standing in a cold field? The back-drop of fireworks was a fitting end to the evening's entertainment on the Main Stage, but it was left to Blondie, in the Big Top, to bring a rocking close to proceedings. No matter, it was a memorable gig and one can now look forward to the announcement of the line-up for 2014!

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