Bestival, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight


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The Independent Culture

The British summer put in a brief appearance just in time to finish off the festival season at the last (but not least) of its major events – DJ Rob Da Bank’s annual Isle of Wight bonanza, Bestival.

The icing on the weekend’s eclectic musical cake was provided by Stevie Wonder, whose sensational classicsfilled set drew a huge crowd to the main stage. Starting with “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved By You”, Wonder then proceeded to use the platform to do a bit of overseas canvassing for US President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election in November.

“We need to rid ourselves of racism and prejudice and hate – he knows about that... Are y’all with me?” he asked to cheers from the crowd, followed up by a string of crowd-pleasers including “ Superstition” and “Happy Birthday”.

Sigur Rós played their only UK festival show this summer in Sunday’s sunset slot, which offered the perfect backdrop for the band’s unique brand of ethereal, Icelandic ambience and epic soundscapes. It was a breathtaking performance of true beauty, but the band weren’t happy; they later apologised for what they called “a thoroughly miserable experience” set in the light (they were promised they could perform in the dark).

Sunday’s more relaxed pace offered the perfect comedown from the intensity of Saturday’s main stage party under the sun. Dancefloor anthems from Sister Sledge, comic relief from The Cuban Brothers and De La Soul’s blast from the past paved the way for indie darlings Two Door Cinema Club, whose tracks from new album Beacon (particularly “Sleep Alone”) went down a treat amid a string of quality radio favourites delivered with class.

Despite a slow start, it was New Order’s masterclass in 1980s new wave electro that captured the diverse crowd’s imagination with renditions of the stunning “Blue Monday” and “True Faith” that still sound as fresh as the day they were first laid down. “This is the song to end all festival sets – and it’s ours,” Bernard Summer smirked, by way of introduction for the band’s finale, Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – performed under photos of the band’s late frontman Ian Curtis.

Draped in a floaty frock, her shock of red hair decorated with sprigs of ivy, a barefoot Florence Welch headlined with her Machine on Friday, showcasing those delectable vocals on “Rabbit Heart” and “You’ve Got the Love”.

The Bollywood Tent and fiery Arcadia stage provided theatrical settings for the cream of the weekend’s dance music – with highlights including the Ratpack, Jaguar Skills and Rob Da Bank himself.

Nods also deserve to go to Sweden’s Little Dragon, Warpaint and Bat for Lashes, while the size of the crowds spilling out of tents staging Justice, singer/songwriter Ben Howard and Mercury Prize-tipped Alt-J offered proof that their stars continue to rise.