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IW Festival Reviews

IW Festival 2015

2014 Review - Back on form!

The 13th Isle of Wight Festival once again got the summer's festival season underway with Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris on the main stage on Friday night playing to 50,000 festivalgoer's who'd hopped across the Solent in eager anticipation.

Saturday included a polished set from The Waterboys, Yorkshire's John Newman, The 1975 and seasoned pro's The Specials. It was however the headliner and rock survivors The Red Hot Chilli Peppers who had to compete with England's opening bout in the World Cup shown on a big screen. In the end it was no contest with the band the highlight of the weekend for many as they rattled off hits like Don't Stop, Californication and Give it Away in their 90 minute set.

On Sunday afternoon once the red, white and blue smoke had cleared from a deafening Red Arrows performance overhead, Fall Out Boy, followed by the Britpop masters Suede took the main stage crowd through their back catalogue. A re-energised Kings of Leon brought waves of emotion to tracks like Don't Matter and simply nailed Four Kicks before ending with the predictable singalong Sex on Fire. Judging by the ooh's and aah's from the massive firework display and the Beetle's classic All you Need is Love, the Isle of Wight Festival is back on form. 

2013 Review - 10/10! - The Epitome of the Perfect Festival!

By Francesca Perry (

The Isle of Wight Festival once boasted a promise of sunshine for the three day event but this year, with the memory of last year’s mud and flooding chaos still fresh in people's minds, there is no doubt that festival-goers are filled with some trepidation as the weekend draws closer. Thankfully, Mother Nature seems to be on our side and traveling patrons are greeted by dry conditions. Typical summer festival attire and sunglasses are a must, as the sunshine comes out in (nearly) all its glory.

Early-bird campers are treated to a spell-binding performance from Jaguar Skills (10) on Thursday night, under the new and well received dance tent. The perfect warm up for what the approaching weekend has to offer.

With clear skies overhead on Friday, crowds flocked to the arena for more. Warming the audience up for an impeccable array of acts, breakthrough Mercury Prize nominees Everything Everything (7) take to the Main Stage, and Jonathan Higgs absorbs the audience with his distinctive falsetto voice.

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2012 Review

By Anja Kimberley (

With an impressive line-up Isle of Wight 2012 is shrouded in 'too good to be true' status but with a strong reputation for fun in the sun, it draws as many people for its name as for its line-up. Sadly, must-see bands thStranglers and Primal Scream were superseded by something unpalatable. When the drizzle begins it is little more than a twinge of festival dampener, but as the skies emptied the worst rainfall for the month of June in 100 years a three letter word threatened to ruin the weekend. MUD. In many, many varieties.

The clouds passed and Friday surfaced with more artists than a bird of flight could hope to see.Feeder (6/10) returned to rekindle the excitement with hit records 'Buck Rogers' and 'Just a Day'. Sadly a bottlenecked would-be audience left them playing to an empty field for the first part of the set.

Caro Emerald set out her stall with Big Band tracks and jazzed the blues away (7/10). Mainstage, Noah and the Whale brought unexpected intensity to the stage with chart toppers 'Five Years Time' and 'A Night like Tonight' (7/10). Sadly Lana Del Rey gripped only those who could get a clear view of her as she shrunk into the shadows of the Big Top Tent. Regardless, the sound was clear and haunting and entertainment was provided through stylised movie imagery (6/10).

Example climbed to the top of the favourites list  as he barely contained his own excitement, taking ownership of the arena with 'Kickstarts', sparking an eruption of dance (8/10).

Headliner Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers pushed the crowd to their limits on Friday night with intricate and relentless masterpieces which he performed with modesty in an evident determination to provide the experience revellers craved. 'It's Good to be King' alone would have make the night worth the battle against the weather but 'I Won't Back Down', 'Free Fallin'' and 'Good Enough' had the audience drunk with satisfaction. (10/10)

Saturday brought delights to the tune of Labrinth who proved his festival worth rivals that of club performances as 'Frisky' and 'Pass Out' would keep people talking through the weekend (7/10), succeeded by pop-ska London boys Madness who incorporated covers into their usual set (8/10). Jessie J stole the show with a fun, dynamic performance complete with a surprise Ushercover (10/10). Scotsmen Biffy Clyro proved themselves the heartbreakers of the festival belting out 'Many of Horror' (8/10). Time evaporated as Pearl Jam headlined Saturday's show, sending air guitarists tracking back to 'Alive' of which snippets could be heard throughout the field for the remainder of the night. (10/10).

Waking to campers' murmers of "Most definitely NOT alive" a night of rain is shaken off on Sunday with the current favourites, Band of Skulls, who intrigued and compelled with goth and rock tracks that look set to take the future by storm (7/10).

Meanwhile The Virgin Marys concocted a punk / pop / rock act that would have excited the likes of Anthony Wilson in the Factory Records day and visibly interrupted passers by from their preoccupations (8/10).

Bruce Springsteen concluded with a three hour set of classics and frivolities as he toys with the audience and went out with fireworks (10/10). Post headline act The Darkness re-awakened their glam-rock mightiness with old time favourites, treating the the now flooded tent and outside screen arena to some hits-to-come. (7/10).

Isle of Wight 2012 was a startling success despite being dragged through the sticky mud in more ways than one and those that survived to see it through are guaranteed to go home with lifelong memories for the right reasons. From the care of the organisers, transport companies and formidable performances from just about every band, Isle of Wight 2012 triumphed through its worst weather year ever - bring on 2013.

2011 Review - 9 out of 10!

By Neil Stone (

With its standalone prominence and concrete reputation for acting like a power magnet for the highest profile artists, the legendary Isle of Wight Festival 2011 is standing room only. A weekend of glorious sunshine and traditional festival down pours predicted, no weather could compromise a show of immeasurable rock magnitude, punctuated throughout by the contemporary, the legends and even the Gods.

Set on the quiet banks of River Medina, 75,000 revellers pack the ferries and arrive after the short journey from the terminals to the campsites. Those that haven't stocked up on festival essentials need not worry as IOW has the whopping advantage of being located a short walk away from the town centre. Here you can avoid the rip-off nature of the over priced festive merchants and get your alcohol (avoid glass), grab a bite to eat and even get camping supplies.

On site, Boy George (6/10) kicks off a predominantly 80's night on the pre-party Thursday as campers still herd in. Big smiles emanate from the former Culture Club frontman who is given an easy ride by the audience during a lack-lustre set. However, a cocktail of margaritas, music, nostalgia, beautiful weather and the promise of a white knuckled weekend makes for an electric atmosphere in the Big Top tent, smoothing over any ugly dismay from troubled proceedings.

After helping out on album 'You Can't Teach a New Dog Old Tricks' John Paul Jones of mega group Led Zeppelin joins Seasick Steve (8/10) for 'Thuderbird' in majestic sunshine. The distinctive musical mutterings of the Oakland native has a winning formula of shit happens songs such as 'Walking Man' and 'Cut My Wing', and is cherished on the festival circuit. Even Mr Grohl gives him a shout out. There's a place in everyone's hearts for Seasick Steve, as well as a place on any festival billing.

Kings Of Leon (8/10) might be causing upset back stage with their last minute refusal for 3D filming, but in front of the barrier, hearts are being won with Caleb's honey over gravel voice and three-minute rock ballads. A rare performance of the awesome 'The Bucket' is causing the girls to swoon and the boys to gallivant forwards deep into the mosh pits. Not known for their sleuthing skills, Caleb with Tennessee twang states: "I don't recall playing here before so this is our first time here, and you guys are awesome". 'On Call' and 'Use Somebody' get huge reactions, but it's the smash hit 'Sex is On Fire', which is causing waves and problems for the ferries.

The darker hearted incarnation of Oasis, Beady Eye (7/10) do well at growling through a strong set but without the back catalogue of sing-along songs at their dispense, it's Liam Gallagher's fame and ego alone that give them the opportunity to play so high up the bill. Dressed in a Union Jack jacket and taking full advantage of being part of the first ever 3D festival, Liam gives his traditional V fingered salute to the crowd and chuckles "I wonder what these fucking bambino's look like in 3D". Always entertaining and wanting to get in the wrong peoples faces, Liam and Co. strike hard and leave their mark at their first ever appearance at the IOW festival.

Pulp (9/10) make their welcome return for a handful of UK shows and give glimpses to their 90's hey day, hoisting up the indie flag high and true. Jarvis, may well be dressed like a maths teacher, but he still knows how to charm with a silver shiny tongue. Taking an optic camera to the mosh pit and handing out sweets to those who waited patiently for hours, the Pulp frontman hasn't lost his step and it's a shame that Pulp's reunion days will be short and sweet. Only 'Help The Aged’ was omitted from a staggering set list of classic songs, all of which were punctuated with insightful and reflective banter. Offering to help the cold individuals in the crowd as the sun sets, Jarvis asks if he should turn up the electric log fire on stage up a bar. Pulp is a King Kong-sized cherry on the Isle of Wight cake.

Foo Fighters (10/10) could never be the dark horse. Internationally renowned for all the positive elements that a headliner can bring to the table, Dave Grohl (a man who needs no introduction) and band dazzle with sheer brilliance and supernova-like energy. Always eager to please, the affable frontman tells the crowd "we'll just keep playing till they kick us off" and they are literal to the word. Unparalleled entertainment, finger shredding fret work and a juke-box sized back catalogue with songs cherry picked like 'Learn to Fly', 'Monkey Wrench', 'Best Of You' and 'Times Like These', certainly the rightful festival crown bearers on an intergalactic scale.

Closing off the festival are the Leicester lads Kasabian (9/10). Tom's prowess, boundless energy and jaunty banter kept the now soaked masses in high spirits during powder keg renditions of 'LSF', 'Empire' and ' Shoot The Runner'. The techno beats, synths and guitars are as distinctive as they are addictive whilst Sergio mixes up the next batch to be shot in to the arm. Wanting to marry every woman in the audience, the frontman was humbled by the crowds that braved weather that could drown a duck. A flawless production and an impeccable choice of band to close a legendary festival.

2010 Review

By Gareth Vipers (

Perched in a picturesque corner of the Isle of Wight, approximately in the middle of nowhere, the Isle of Wight Festival draws together an eclectic mix of old and new, mainstream and leftfield.

With arguably the best three headline spots of the entire 2010 festival season, this year’s three-dayer included show stopping performances from Jay-Z and Paul McCartney, as well as a scorching return for rock favourites The Strokes.

Spread over the main stage and The Big Top tent, other acts included Blondie, Vampire Weekend, Ocean Colour Scene, Florence and The Machine, Biffy Clyro and Orbital.

No expense was spared at the UK festival season opener, with Pink providing a theatrical extravaganza and McCartney closing the party with an impressive fireworks display.

In essence the Isle of Wight Festival is one big party, with something for all, and more surprises than a lorry load of Kinder Eggs.

2009 Review

By Ben Rust (

IOW Festival had one of its finer editions in 2009 and the addition of the Tim Burgess-curated day in the Big Top enabled a more challenging line-up than in previous years, applauds Ben Rust.

The festival itself was one of the finer in most recent years, with almost omnipresent sunshine and a Big Top that remained packed for most of the weekend. Musically it presented a typically diverse platter of populist acts, topped by heavyweight headliners (The Prodigy, Stereophonics and Neil Young) and a powerful second tier who could have all been headliners (Basement Jaxx, Razorlight, Simple Minds, The Pixies). The core line-up was, as usual, peppered with a few more obscure pop acts you might not have thought to see otherwise (Sharon Corr, Bananarama) which provided a novel distraction and somthing to talk about.

This year also saw a fresh new dimension to the line-up, with smattering of more challenging bands – many of which Tim Burgess picked for his curated stint in the Big Top. Sadly, these suffered from smaller audiences than they deserved, but hopefully this is a part of the event that will gain prominence over time. Even a vintage headline performance from Neil Young was watched by fewer people than many of the acts that preceeded him during the day, as many had chosen to leave on the Sunday, which we thought was a shame.

2008 Review

By Staff Writer (

Having won Best Major Festival at last year's UK Festival Awards, how will this year stack up?

Beautiful forecast-shattering blue skies throughout, happy people, seamless organisation and superb headline sets from no less than two legendary rock acts. Isle of Wight 2008 might well even have reached the impossible heights of last year's perfect festival had it not been for some 'good' mid-afternoon sets diluting the 'brilliant' standard of everything else.

Us Brits have been known to rally when the rain comes down, but it's rare. Festival-goers are always happy when they're in flip-flops, though, and suprise turned to elation day-after-day as the sun kept his hat on from start to finish. By the end of a particularly searing Saturday, however, the crowds were a little fazed, prompting Johnny Rotten's complaints of: "I can't f*****g hear you!". The crowd wasn't exactly high-octane, that's for sure, but a relaxed and uplifting vibe permeated throughout. There's always one, though, and by his own admission, Iggy Pop did "get a bit shouty" towards the end of The Stooges' set and sent the front half of the arena into a frenzy. Several people had to be hauled out of the crowd but this was due to over-excitement and exhuberance rather than aggression and no other problems were reported.

The Sex Pistols will emerge from the weekend with a restored reputation for having the music to back the band's anarchic swagger - their set was a masterclass in ripping punk riffs and impassioned yells from a very vocal John Lydon. The band provided the backbone to what could be considered a slightly 'soft' line up with the likes of One Night Only and Scouting For Girls dominating the daytime slots.

2007 Review

By Ben Murray (

Carlsberg don't make major festivals. A man called John Giddings does, however, and in our opinion he makes them better than anyone else. Welcome to the Isle Of Wight 2007 - the Best Major Festival we have yet had the pleasure of experiencing...

Just like a well-known film starring John Candy and Steve Martin, a variety of trains, planes and automobiles are required to get to the Isle of Wight for the now annual reincarnation of the classic 60's arts festival. The masses arrive by train and car, the canny ones get on the hovercraft (well it does fly in a way, so that's the plane bit sorted) and then the unlucky ones, as we are, then get in a taxi and brave some of the most miserable cabbies this side of a kebab-strewn West End taxi rank at 4am. With the world put to rights and the taxi driver clutching a wad of notes (he admits the prices are vastly inflated for the festival weekend - thanks) we amble through Seaclose Park and pitch the tent in a gap that would be described by an estate agent as 'modest' and anyone else as Penny Black-sized. The camping sites on the Isle of Wight are relatively hassle free; not as busy as Glastonbury, safer than Reading and V and not far from the main arena - all of which matter if a festival weekend is to go well and your tent's contents still there when you get back after Sunday's headline set.

2006 Review

by Ross Purdie (

Thousands of eager festival-goers make the pilgrimage to the Isle Of Wight for the revived weekender's strongest lineup since 1970 - Coldplay, Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Richard Ashcroft and more...

It's all kicking off on Friday. The hottest day of the year to date has seen helicopters dumping water supplies to jam-stranded motorists on the M25, two tankers colliding in the Solent to disrupt ferry crossings, and 35,000 festival fans making the journey almost half a million hippies made on a similarly steaming day back in 1970 – to the Isle Of Wight for the UK's oldest and original music festival.

And now The Prodigy are stepping up the chaos. Having missed Morning Runner, The Rakes, Goldfrapp and Placebo as the result of the congested eight hour journey from London, we can only assume they did a good job judging by the carnival atmosphere that's generated throughout the festival site, from the long winding thoroughfare linking the campsites all the way down to the spread of smiles and sunburn illuminated by the dazzling lights of the main stage.

2005 Review

by Susan Le May (

It may be more contrived than its famous hippy ancestor, but as the June sunshine blankets the beautiful IOW Festival site, you can almost smell the acid-soaked ghosts of the past lingering in the sea air.

It was Britain's answer to Woodstock. In 1970 Jimi Hendrix plucked his guitar with world-shattering panache, Joni Mitchell cooed her way into folk folklore, and The Who became one of the most important bands in rock history. Rebellion against war and violence with Peace and Love saw 700,000 people (about six times the size of Glastonbury's current capacity) descend on a small island off the south coast of England for an event that embodied an entire decade. Reborn in 2001, the Isle of Wight Festival is now decidedly more controlled and corporate, similar in its 'middle of the road' music policy to V Festival, with mainstream rock music being the staple three courses. But can the magic be revived? Will the likes of Roxy Music and R.E.M rekindle the spirit of the those pioneering festivals more than three decades ago?

2004 Review

By Staff Writer (

Clear skies, plenty of sun, The Isle of Wight festival is back. Almost gone are the 70's festival faithful dressed in 'eco multi-coloured dream coats', living in a hazed world behaving like over-sexed rabbits.

Today it is their heirs', the 'well heeled' generation, in designer T-shirts and trainers, those indulging in what used to be the mandatory festival pastimes few and far between. Put this aside the atmosphere has that original festival feel, overflowing toilets, discarded beer bottles and cups carpeting the arena, wafting odours of the festival 'greasy spoon' hot food stalls only topped by the lavishing of sun cream served up on lobster like rockers. Add this to a line up that might just have been on a wish list and the stage was set for an unforgettable weekend. The Who and David Bowie supported by The Manic Street Preachers, The Charlatans and Steve Harley , plus many more, indeed a dream line up. That 'I was there', the feel good factor fades all the less favourable memories.

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