by Nick Mabey.
A Different Class
Friday at the festival and Newport was rocking. The sun shone, the crowds swarmed, everything was as it should be. For me it was all about Jarvis Cocker but more of that later.
First things first; a minor rant. For package holiday makers, skiers and other seasoned travellers, the term ‘shuttle buses’ suggests something included in the ticket price. Not here; both the private and municipal bus companies could smell the cash wafting across the Solent and pumped up their prices accordingly. As we disembarked from the ferry the hot, chaotic entrepreneurialism reminded more of Tangiers than Cowes.
Once in I decided the intriguing line up on the main stage warranted my full attention and I wasn’t disappointed. The Clause opened proceedings at 4pm, but blink and you would have missed it. The up and coming Birmingham-based band, who got started on a tiny stage at this same festival three years ago, punched out a few very catchy tunes in accomplished style.
Next up was Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who attracted a very large crowd for an afternoon and proceeded to deliver on her Covid-inspired kitchen disco renaissance with a collection of beautifully delivered dance tunes, including a cover of my favourite Madonna hit, Like A Prayer. Finishing with Murder on the Dance Floor, Ellis-Bextor, was a joy. Dressed in shimmering pink tinsel and clearly enjoying herself immensely, she and her talented band provide perfect sunny festival afternoon fare.
Next came The Sugababes, who I should probably know more about, given they’ve been in existence (albeit with multiple line-ups) for twenty-five years. I was surprisingly entertained; particularly by Push the Button, and I Know How I Feel About You Now. And how I feel about them now is appreciation for their strong individual voices, great harmonies and well choreographed routines.
One Republic were next and I was counting stars as Ryan Tedder reminded us of all the hits he’s written for other performers including Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. Unbelievably, Counting Stars has had two billion downloads on Spotify and it was no surprise the crowd sang along to every word. The high point was a Spanish guitar solo followed by one on violin and then eight bars of both. Ryan Tedder and One Republic remind me of Chris Martin and Coldplay with his standing up piano playing and their anthemic tunes.
An unexpected pleasure followed in the shape of The Courteeners, a Manchester garage band who entertained with power and poise. The only song I knew was not even theirs; a cover of It Must Be Love didn’t disappoint.
And so to Pulp, a notable absence in my live back catalogue. I was excited. And not disappointed. Despite being your friendly neighbourhood DJ these days, Jarvis Cocker was still able to bring his gawky, provocative, sometimes-angry but always animated stage presence out to play. Featuring five of the line-up that catapulted them to fame in the early nineties and supported by an extended strings section, Pulp were literately Different Class, plundering almost every song from their most famous album.
The set and staging was beautifully imagined, with stylish raking, innovative props and bold lighting to bring a theatrical feel to the performance. Jarvis was on top form, and really seemed to relish his first Isle of Wight festival performance since 2011. After ninety minutes of imaginative, chaotic splendour the band of course finished with fans favourite, Common People, giving me the chance to reference this publication by saying the audience’s euphoric reaction was something we all had in common.
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