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Saturday @ The Isle of Wight Festival

The Maccabees?...performance of the weekend so far!

The Isle of Wight woke up to sun on the Saturday, and it was a relaxed, possibly hung-over crowd which made the effort to see The Yeah Yeahs. Oh wait, no, that’s The Yeah You’s. Glad that’s not confusing. The Yeah You’s are a duo comprising of Nick Ingram and Mike Kintish, and their summery, easy listening rock was a great way to start the day. They didn’t get the crowd on their feet, but new debut single ‘15 minutes’, their finale, went down well.

Next up on the main stage, and a well known face emerges by the name of Sharon Corr. She plays a good set, mixing a few of her new solo tracks with a few classic Corrs tunes. The sun is hot, an Irish fiddle plays over the speakers, the father christmas’ have arrived (most notably the one who forgot to pack everything apart from his hat and g-string) and the festival is in a mellow, chilled out mood. The night before seems a long time ago.

This reviewer shamefully admits to not really knowing much about the Zombies, next on stage. And that is the beauty of the Isle Of Wight Festival, something you won’t find at, say, Reading and Leeds. The chance to learn about and to experience bands the younger generation wouldn’t necessarily know about. Best known for their 1968 album ‘Odyssey and Oracle’, which was #80 in The Rolling Stones Top 500 albums of all time, they departed ways the same year, only for their album to become popular in the 80’s, and to begin being name-checked in the 90’s and 00’s by artists such as Ok Go, Of Montreal, The Beautiful South,  the late Elliot Smith, and Paul Weller, who often covers their songs. They played a mixed set of old and new tracks, including three in a row from Odyssey....,talked to the crowd giving the history of the tracks, and slowly won the crowd around with their summery, classic sounding pop music.

Over in the Big Top however, things are a bit more frantic. The Maccabees have arrived, and it’s a large crowd which greets them. I liked their first album, Colour it in, but I always thought it was missing a little....grit. It had the tunes, but it was as if the band didn’t have the confidence to match them. With their new album, Wall of Arms, the still young members have triumphed, and their sound is more confident, mature, slightly darker, it is as if the band want to be taken more seriously. And after their performance at the IoW, they should be. Walking onstage to moody ‘No Kind Words’, they played a frantic, sharp set, comprised of songs from both albums. It was songs from their second album which really grabbed you though, ‘Can You Give it’, ‘Dinosaurs’, and ‘Seventeen Hands’ all getting the crowd in a frenzy. “Give them a good review please, they’re awesome” says the guy standing next to me, and as ‘Love You better’ comes to a close, I assure him that that will not be a problem.  Performance of the weekend so far.

Back on the main stage, the View played to an appreciative audience, who loved the tracks off their debut album, dancing and singing with the band, but were less sure about the more subtle songs of their second album. Though they might not have been on fire, they were smokin'..

In complete contrast to the View, in every way possible, Mercury Rev were playing in the Big Top. With a massive, epic sound which takes you on a journey, and a front man in Jonathan Donahue who captivates your attention, they are always a band worth seeing. I had my doubts whether they would fit in on a hot sunny afternoon, but the outside world was soon forgotten as they played tracks from their most recent album, ‘Snowflake Midnight’, Jonathan leaping around the stage, miming his band members, arms flailing in time with the music.  It was couple of oldies, though, which captured this reviewer.  ‘Holes’, from ‘Deserter’s Songs’, sounded desolate but so powerful under the big canopy, and ‘The Dark is Rising’, from the album ‘All Is Dream’, filled the tent, silencing the crowd who clung on to every word. It brought a tear to this reviewer’s eye, and the world seemed a very different place when we walked into the bright sunshine afterwards. Amazing stuff.

Razorlight. Now here’s a band who many people would say have seriously fallen from grace since their fantastic album ‘Up All Night’. The past arrogance of Johnny Borrell, and his seeming obsession with America, led to a lacklustre reception to their 3rd album, and it was interesting to see how they would fair after a long absence from a big festival appearance. But all credit to them, they performed. Coming on to ‘In the Morning’, they played a set comprised of songs from all their albums. It was songs from their debut which got best reaction, songs such as ‘Vice’ and ‘Somewhere Else’ getting the crowd moving, and ‘Golden Touch’ gaining a big singalong. ‘America’ also found the crowd in good voice, and a cut down ‘Wire to Wire’ echoed out beautifully around the arena. Johnny,
maybe, just maybe, all is forgiven.

Somewhere, in the last couple of years, Stereophonics have gone from a good band to a headlining band, and for good reason...Their armoury of songs.
Thoughts on them headlining were mixed before they played, but I don’t think anybody had any doubts on their position on the bill by the end of their set. With so many good songs to choose from, so many well known tracks, it was easy for them to win this crowd over which wanted to end the day on a high. Ripping into ‘The Bartender and The Thief’, they never slowed, playing songs such as ‘More Life in A Tramp’s Vest’, ‘A Thousand Trees’, ‘Have a Nice Day’, ‘Same Size Feet’, ‘Traffic’, and ‘Just Looking’, which got the whole crowd chanting. Their cover of Mike d’Abo’s ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ drew a huge applause and the audience knew every word.  They also played a couple of newbies, one called ‘Innocent’, and it has to be noted that they fitted in well and were warmly received by the hits hungry audience. For an encore, a solo Kelly Jones appeared in a spotlight, surrounded by darkness, to perform a stunning version of Maybe Tomorrow to an eerily silent crowd, a song which took on a whole new meaning as his distinctive voice travelled around the arena. And then to finish, a stomping version of Dakota to send the crowd back to their tents happy and high on simply good music. A great close to the Saturday.

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Mike Rowbottom
18th June 2009
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Saturday @ The Isle of Wight Festival
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