Isle of Wight Radio’s Tom Stroud looks back on a weekend of live music and extreme weather, with Bruce Springsteen leading the dancing in Seaclose Park
"The 2012 Isle Of Wight Festival will go down in music history" - the words of festival organiser John Giddings, talking to me on my radio show the day after the event. This year's Seaclose Park show will be memorable for all kinds of reasons. Fifty five thousand people put up with the conditions and took in four days of live music, choosing from more than two hundred acts on offer. Despite difficult conditions Thursday night's show went ahead, with Primal Scream returning to the Island to headline the Big Top. Last time they played at Seaclose Park they were introduced on stage by Kate Moss. No supermodels this year but the band delivered, raising the spirits of bedraggled festivalgoers with anthems like "Moving On Up", "Loaded" and "Rocks".
Friday saw Feeder open the proceedings on the mainstage, followed by Noah & The Whale. The varied line-up worked, with the crowd jumping up and down to Example but still paying full attention to Elbow who followed. Their set was perfectly pitched, Guy Garvey’s mateyness soothing any tensions while lifting the audience up with “One Day Like This”. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers headlined their first ever British festival with a set full of well-worn rockers and almost as many guitar changes.
On Saturday the mainstage went from classic rock to urban pop to take in sets from Labrinth, Tinie Tempah and Jessie J. Tinie’s “Pass Out” saw the biggest crowd reaction so far, and Jessie delivered a pitch perfect set of big songs and curious trouser wear. Madness were a definite highlight, fresh from their turn at Buckingham Palace, with Suggs and pals wasting no time in delivering a hit-filled hour. Saturday night was rock night, with Biffy Clyro unveiling some new material and with their nifty cameras on the mics they gave the punters some extreme close-ups. Pearl Jam headlined, playing for their fans, with a varied set that brought them some new converts too.
Sunday at Seaclose Park saw the sunshine return in time for sets from Joan Armatrading and The Vaccines. Without doubt the biggest sing-along moment of the entire weekend came from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds as “Don’t Look Back In Anger” united the crowd. Noel let the audience take the choruses and even allowed himself a grin. The band also played the song unperturbed by a firework thrown on to the stage by an over-excited fan.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band stole the festival with a committed performance of epic proportions. Festival goers ignored the football, awed by The Boss’ passion and showmanship for nearly three hours. Bruce works the crowd, throwing rock star poses, his eyes alive with the energy of a much younger man. He saves the hits for the very end, with “Born To Run”, “Dancing In The Dark”, “Born In The USA” and “Thunder Road” setting up a finale of fireworks and a cover of “Twist And Shout”.
The fans left happy in the knowledge that they’d seen a world-class performance from a musical legend. And that’s the point of the Isle Of Wight Festival, delivering the big names while giving you new acts to discover on the other stages, earlier in the day. For every Springsteen there was a Spector or a Switchfoot. With the Big Top and the Garden Stage there were even more opportunities to take in performances from acts like The Charlatans, The Darkness and the newest girl band around Stooshe. As Seaclose Park cleared out on Monday it really did seem as though this was one of the best Island festivals ever, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the conditions and the atmosphere created by thousands of like-minded people gathered together, united by music. Cliched? Maybe, but ask the fans who were there. Without doubt, it was definitely one to remember.