Isle of Wight Festival, Seaclose Park

Festival veterans put Isle of Wight back on map
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The Independent Culture

Since its revival in 2002, Isle Of Wight Festival has risen from underdog of the season to become a mainstay. An event that has to live up to hosting Hendrix and Dylan in its original incarnation now attracts suitably legendary bands such as REM.

Since its revival in 2002, Isle Of Wight Festival has risen from underdog of the season to become a mainstay. An event that has to live up to hosting Hendrix and Dylan in its original incarnation now attracts suitably legendary bands such as REM.

Currently mid-tour, the trio looked razor sharp from the start, breezily headlining Sunday's chilly proceedings. Michael Stipe, replete with painted blue Zorro-mask opened with "Bang and Blame" and followed up with a blistering delivery of the classic "One I Love". The mixed bag was complete with a moody "Drive" and the audience were awash with smiles.

However, 2005's run-up had been marred by Morrissey's withdrawal, claiming he'd never agreed to do it. Travis gamely stepped in to join Faithless and Roxy Music, and this was a festival firing on all cylinders.

Friday began with sunshine but Edinburgh's Idlewild were the first to spark excitement. They proved their mettle with a glorious widescreen rendition of "American English". REM should perhaps have felt aggrieved at Idlewild's anthems' burgeoning similarity to their own early-90s sound.

Festival veterans Supergrass ensured the vibe stuck firmly on fun with a range from their catalogue and Razorlight, with an eye on next year's headline slot, wilfully knocked out hits but, in the glare of new track, "Stop", it's clear they're around for the long haul.

Faithless were the weekend's first headliners and, despite the fact their appeal usually hangs on just one song, their appearance was imbued with classic festival atmosphere and they were on great form. The greatest rewards were an energetic "Insomnia" and a vital 'God is a DJ'.

Saturday began slightly earlier and Manchester's Nine Black Alps proved to be one of the highlights with "Not Everyone" illustrating there's life in grunge yet.

Babyshambles were suitably shambolic but, remarkably, Ray Davies looked freshest, despite being four decades Pete Doherty's senior. A great evening was made perfect with Davies' charming classic "Lola".

The Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin Chain and Feeder played their hits efficiently but Roxy Music brought gravitas to the day with a non-populist set. At last they chugged into "Virginia Plain" and every lapsed fan was instantly tugged back to belief.

It was easy to see how Bryan Ferry could, in an alternative universe, be Nick Cave or another latter-day rock'n'roll hero. Trademark snappy funk followed with "Love Is The Drug" and an aching version of "Jealous Guy".

Travis opened with "Sing" and despite Fran Healy frequently forgetting lyrics, melodic sensibilities prevailed. They have festival DNA in their veins and "Turn" was received well while a boisterous cover of Morrissey's "Every Day Is Like Sunday" provided some succour for the disappointed.

A younger crowd filtered through the park gates on Sunday and 60s harmony fetishists The Magic Numbers became the first high point with "Forever Lost" successfully auditioning as song of the summer.

James Walsh led Starsailor as the day turned cooler and Embrace wooed the audience with "Gravity". Snow Patrol returned for a second year wielding innocuous modern radio classics plus new material but, while making an adequate fist of it, they merely drew attention to the fact that Coldplay weren't on.

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