It's been 34 years since they shared the bill with Jimi Hendrix and The Doors but The Who returned on Saturday with a trademark barnstorming greatest hits performance.
The Isle of Wight Festival is firmly back on the summer festival map following blistering perfomances from The Who, Manic Street Preachers and David Bowie. This year’s line up offered rockers of all generations something, quoting from its own history by bringing the dervish-like 60s rockers back and then bringing things quickly up-to-date with Jet via The Chalatans.
It’s in The Who‘s nature to pillage all the plaudits but even after a testing few years, Daltrey and Townshend can still bring 30,000 punters to their feet due to the fact that they simply seem to love playing their back catalogue, and they instilled in songs like ‘My Generation’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ such urgency and vitallity that The Who live experience is still more essential than their recorded output.
Daltrey recollected his memories of the infamous 1970 festival saying, “I remember getting drunk with Jim Morrison. We downed about two bottles of Southern Comfort in front of a huge bonfire. Then the bugger went and died and didn’t buy his round.”
The theme of this year’s festival seemed to be whether the present crop of rockers on show could ever reach the status of the Bowies or Daltreys of this world and if this was even possible these days when the music business has changed so much.
The Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers are in contention for such longevity and both played strong sets. Kelly Jones‘ men are probably due a critical revival these days and after a brief absence returned to the Isle of Wight on Friday night refreshed and inspired, ripping through a greatest hits set with ‘Boy In The Photograph’, ‘Madame Helga’ and ‘Mr Writer’.
On Saturday, the Manics gave fans a taster of the new Tony Visconti-produced album due in October with two new tracks ‘Empty Souls’ and ‘Solitude Sometimes Is’. James Dean Bradfield warned “If it sounds shit, its because it’s new.” Luckily, it didn’t.
Jet proved that they have the potential to still be around in a few years with a typically brash run out, While many people’s rock legends in the making The Libertines, who unfortunately might not last as long, were replaced on the bill by The Ordinary Boys.
It was left to Bowie to close the festival on Sunday and lift the impending gloom of another disasterous football tournament by highlighting what the Brits do best with songs plucked from his 35 year career. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, songs like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’ tended to resonate a bit too much, but as soon as ‘Ziggy Stardust’ kicks in Bowie is able to ease the crowd out of despair to begin dreaming all over again.