Review and photos: Victorious Festival, Southsea Common, August 25- 27, 2023

Review and photos: Victorious Festival, Southsea Common, August 25- 27, 2023

Read our day-by-day review of Victorious, featuring the headline acts, newcomers and much more.



by Sally Churchward. Main image: Kate Nash by Tom Langford.

Victorious boasts the claim to fame of being the UK’s biggest metropolitan festival and this year it was even bigger. While the Friday festival experience has previously hosted some big names to draw music fans to the Southsea site early, this year was the first time the full arena had been open, with all the stages and areas such as the Kids’ Arena and World Music Village fully operational. 

Blossoms by Tom Langford.

As much of the festival experience is wandering round the smaller stages and stumbling across a hidden gem and taking in the atmosphere, it was a welcome upgrade.

The Kids’ Arena also seemed somewhat larger than last year. It would be easy for a family to spend the entire day in the zone, with all of the attractions being free, from bouncy castles, through nerf battles and rock climbing to a whole host of creative activities, such as t-shirt and cake decorating, as well as its own stage and characters doing walkabouts, including an expanded troupe of Disney Princesses, and a comedy pairing on stilts with a wig on a stick – you kind of had to be there. 

The VIP area also had more to offer this year, including sideshow style entertainment and a  younger children’s play area.

The only thing that wasn’t bigger and better was the toilets – there weren’t anything like enough of them in any area of the site and by Sunday the queues were lengthy.

Jamiroquai by Tom Langford.

Among the big name draws for Friday were Blossoms who brought a joyful set to the crowd enjoying the early afternoon sunshine in the main arena.

Victorious always offers an eclectic mix from current chart toppers to longer serving veterans of the music scene. Circa Waves, who are touring this autumn, were on the Castle Stage, while The Charlatans and Friendly Fires were amongst those leading up to the return of the space cowboy, Jamiroquai, on the Common Stage. 

Known for his taste in over-large hats, his feather headdress could be seen as ill-judged cultural appropriation. It’s almost a decade since they were actually banned from a festival in British Columbia and arguably, Jay Kay and his team should have known better.That said, it was a storming set that wowed the Friday crowd.



by Sally Churchward. Additional reporting by Lewis Maclean.

Natalie Imbruglia by Neil Glasspool.

Once again, the bookers for Victorious showed their expertise, with early crowd pleaser Natalie Imbruglia playing to a huge audience at the Common Stage on Saturday. Currently touring extensively, she looked to be having a great time leaping around whilst belting out her well-known hits such as Smoke, Torn and finale Big Mistake. She also played new song Habit, joking that she was brave enough to ask the audience what they thought of it; it definitely went down well. 

One of the big treats of the day was on one of the smaller platforms – the World Music Stage – where Alabama 3, all the way from the ‘South London Delta’ brought late night party vibes to the blazing afternoon Southsea sunshine with an acoustic set.

The intimate gig drew a huge crowd and it felt like everyone was being invited into the private jokes and fun of the foursome.

Whilst setting up the mic levels, a roadie told the sound engineer ‘he’s got a ridiculously deep voice’ of lead singer Rob Spragg  – it’s one any Sopranos fans would be very familiar with thanks to the band’s anthemic hit Woke Up This Morning, which they performed with gusto on Saturday.

It was great fun watching such a talented group of musicians perform and enjoy themselves. Their setlist included Hello…I’m Johnny Cash and You Don’t Dance to Techno Anymore, which Rob joked was on the zeitgeist.

Rob teased bandmate Nick Reynolds, who was apparently celebrating his 60th birthday that day. He shared the background that Nick is the son of one of the Great Train Robbers before going into their foot stomping song titled after Nick’s father, Have You Seen Bruce Reynolds?.

Alabama 3 by Neil Glasspool.

Aurora Dawn’s vocals were simply studding, especially when showcased on Bam Ba Lam, in which she performed an amazing acapella solo, holding the crowd in the palm of her hand. 

One of the other highlights was the timely Woody Guthrie, which Rob said was dedicated to Bibby Stockholm syndrome. 

Lyrics such as “sing a song for the asylum seeker, for the frightened baby on some foreign beach,” gave me goosebumps despite the afternoon heat. 

Another song was dedicated to MOJO (Miscarriages of Justice Organisation). The band came back for an encore with Peace in The Valley which had the whole crowd singing along. Alabama 3 are touring and coming to Southampton in autumn – catch them if you can, you won’t regret it. 

For me, Saturday’s highlight came in the late afternoon, when Kate Nash burst onto the main stage, resplendent in a pink satin and silver boot combo that her GLOW character, the wrestler Rhonda, would be proud of. 

Despite her often angry lyrics she created a vibe of being friends with the entire audience. The love and respect started onstage and spread through the people she engaged with while on numerous walkabouts and across the whole, huge, crowd.

From the first song she was off the stage and mingling with the audience, singing in people’s faces and sharing the microphone – one delighted fan no doubt has a cherished memory following a duet, of sorts, on Mariella. 

The set ran into brief technical difficulties – Kate commented that as it was their last festival of the summer, there had to be some drama  – but she didn’t let it put her off her stride for a moment and never missed a beat or a note. 

Kate has an impressive catalogue of songs under her belt which she performed with passion, including Mouthwash and Trash, but it was her patter with the crowd that really made the gig so special. 

A highlight was her inviting the audience to collectively yell out the name of their special dickhead, before launching into the song of the same name.

“Does anyone out there know any dickheads? I know a few,” adding “wow, feels good,” after the audience yelled their responses.

She went on to invite individual audience members to shout the names of their personal irritants over the mic, commenting “I can’t believe you have the audacity to say surnames straight away.”

Kate introduced storming new song Wastelands, ‘for the ladies’ which was a big hit with the crowd, and invited a friend on stage to dance to the song. 

Of course, Foundations had to be on the setlist and Kate saved it to last, inviting the audience to wave their fingertips in the air before launching into an impassioned performance including a few ad libs. She was joined on stage by a couple of young children and played around with them and her band, appearing to have a great time, which we were all invited to share. 

The set ended with her performing the final bars of Foundations acapella, filling the arena with her crystal clear voice, and reminding us why she’s still here, playing to huge, delighted, crowds having battled through the ups and downs of her almost 20 year career. 

Other crowd pleasers of the day included comedy from Jason Manford, The Divine Comedy, Inspiral Carpets, Batala Portsmouth and Belle & Sebastian who played a laidback set which upped the ante of crowd participation, inviting an entourage onto the stage as back up dancers for The Boy With the Arab Strap.

The Cribs came down from Wakefield, as they reminded the audience, to rock the Castle Stage with hits including Payback, Be Safe, Pink Snow and the anthemic Men’s Needs.

Badly Drawn Boy by Lewis Maclean.

The Acoustic Stage saw a great performance from rising star Jerry Williams, who played to a huge crowd. While the stage’s Saturday headliner was the gift of a quiet, intimate Badly Drawn Boy set, featuring plenty of hits, including All Possibilities.

Towards the end of the set, he did a touching cover of ‘Someday’ by the Strokes on piano that pulled at the heartstrings, after he shared his recent experiences of family loss. This solemn and irreverent atmosphere was pierced at times by an audience member who sang along to every word in his entire set, to the point where a seemingly flattered Damon described trying to find a song she didn’t know the words to. The mood of the gig frequently went between humour and quiet reflection. It ended on Once Around the Block and everyone went away happy. 

The Kaiser Chiefs gave an energetic performance second from the top of the bill on the main stage. 

“We are here to entertain you, and entertain you we must!” declared frontman Ricky Wilson – and indeed they did. 

Their setlist included massive crowd pleasers such as Modern Way, How 2 Dance, Everyday I Love You Less and Less and Ruby, in which Ricky had the whole crowd singing ‘ah, ah, ah, ah, ah ah,’ back to him, which sounded much more melodic in person than it looks on paper. 

Ricky gave a theatrical performance, including swaggering round like a cowboy in his Western shirt, and spinning a tambourine as if it were a pistol in a fast draw contest.

Inevitably the crowd got especially energetic for I Predict a Riot – I Incite a Riot, perhaps? Ricky also got carried away, climbing perilously high up the stage rigging, before humorously calling out the lyrics ‘ it’s not very sensible!’ and descending. 

The energy stayed high for We Are the Angry Mob, although the Victorious crowd was happy rather than punchy, and Oh My God which reached a suitable crescendo with Ricky firing paper cannons into the crowd.

After a crowd singalong to Sweet Caroline, headliners Kasabian more than matched The Kaiser Chiefs’ energy. 

Frontman Serge Pizzorno (who took over the role in 2020 after the band sacked its former frontman) planted himself on the stage looking like a boxer ready to step into the ring – an aesthetic enhanced by his oversized purple knitwear which had a fighter’s robe vibe.

The set started hard and heavy with the massive anthem Club Foot and Serge got the crowd jumping, chanting that he wanted to see a mosh pit, later reiterating the request, adding ‘if anyone falls, pick them up – it’s all about love’.

Kasabian by Tom Langford.

It felt as if with him as frontman some of the band’s more aggressive edge has been rubbed back, and for me, it’s better for it.

He declared that this was the best place to be in the world right now and the crowd seemed to agree.

The energy stayed high with hits like Ill Ray (The King), Underdog, Shoot The Runner and LSF while the quirky You’re In Love With a Psycho offered a gentler pace, as did Algorithms, which, at Serge’s request, had a goosebumps moment with the whole crowd singing ‘oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,’ (a theme for the night, apparently).

Serge was determined that everyone was going to have as good a night as he clearly was, getting the sides of the crowd to take turns to cheer, going on a lengthy walkabout to Daft Punk’s One More Time and stating:

“This is the last gig of the summer and we need as many people on shoulders as possible – we won’t start til it’s looking right.”

The set was peppered with snatches of dance anthems, including Insomnia, Intergalactic and Praise You. 

The band came back for a well-deserved encore, and what started as a bit of a fighty-sounding set ended up as one full of joy, with Kasabian undoubtedly recruiting some new and much-deserved fans along the way.



By Lewis Maclean. 

Sunday offered a great chance to see more upcoming artists on several smaller stages, where local south coasts were encouraged to play.

I started at the Beats and Swing stage hosted by local DJ renegades Soul45 who were chaperoning through the day.  South coast artist Frankie Knight played this sunny Sunday in Southsea. Frankie writes and plays her own songs that blend both electric and acoustic elements. Her music seems to go down well amongst those either sitting back on the grass or dancing up front. Frankie is a keen musical innovator so her sound changes every now and then but there was also an upbeat electro-calypso carnival spirit in her songs; not on full on Reggae but strong influences blended with facets of Dance/RnB.

Dlugokecki by Paul Floyd.

Southampton’s Dlugokecki captivated the attention on the Portsmouth Present stage and were a nice breath of fresh air amongst the hectic noise of the main stages. They may have been familiar to many, after playing the south coast for the last 20 odd years, and served up a mix of folk and mild country presence at times which definitely appealed to the crowd.

Later on The Devil’s Damned String Band played the same stage creating what can only be described as a hoedown with fiddle, banjo and all the trimmings.  The crowd was dancing and swinging as couples, families and everyone else enjoyed themselves in the sun.  They are a great collection of musicians, playing fun music but the level of meticulous dedication they must bring as individual musicians for the band to do what it does is understated.

Love Always, SKM played to a laid back crowd on the showcase which was interestingly situated outside the fairground. The Brighton-based four piece guitar band played a great set and the quirky, unique songs were matched by singer Jimmy Horrify, who had great stage presence with unique banter, sometimes at the cost of the band who not only provide tight supportive musical backing, but presumably patience. There were many jokes from the band that sadly didn’t make it to the microphone but perhaps another time.

 Over at the Casemates band Our Propaganda did their thing with heavy guitars clashing up against smooth almost opera style vocals. They had a commanding presence onstage and went down well as they played to a mesmerised crowd of mixed ages.Arguably they’d be a better fit in a later timeslot on one of the bigger stages but that didn’t stop them from giving a great show. 

Second from the top on the Castle Stage was Ellie Goulding. She performed an impressive set including hits such as Love Me Like You Do and Burn whilst the audience, who she described as one of the nicest crowds of the summer were showered with confetti and treated to pyrotechnic displays.

Across the way The Vaccines were playing the Castle Stage. Needless to say the entire field was packed out. The standard rock band concert atmosphere ensued with people on shoulders, waving at the camera on stage when it panned over them. Singer Justin dropped a hint he was from Southampton when he introduced the band. He told the crowd where everyone in the band was from except him: “Portsmouth, I know better than to tell you where I am from.”  That being said, the atmosphere was sweetness and love and when they played If You Wanna, the place erupted.

Mumford & Sons by Emma Wurfel.

It was a short ten minutes before Mumford & Sons commenced on the Common Stage and they were as busy as expected, enjoying full on Victorious headliner status with the crowds piled up all the way to the exits. Interestingly the Mumfords opened straight away with Little Lion Man which suggested they were confident about their star power not to reserve ‘hits’ for an encore. I was fortunate enough to see Mumford & Sons when they were starting out. They were really special with something unique but I think as they got inevitably bigger reaching stadium rock level, the songs have become more drawn out and elaborate. Naturally, they left their humble folk, Bluegrass beginning behind.

I took the slim risk of missing them play White Blank Page and left early because Johnny Marr was starting on the Castle Stage. I was shocked to see people walking out of the Mumfords set past the Castle Stage without poking their heads in. 

Johnny_Marr by Elliot McRae.

As impressive an event it is to see the Mumfords play your home town, personally I could never miss another opportunity to see Johnny play. The Castle Stage was as packed as it was for The Vaccines but a bit more relaxed presumably due to a stronger representation of the Smiths’ generation. Much like The Mumfords, Johnny opened with a big hit from The Smiths – Panic. Johnny is famous for The Smiths but his solo material like Easy Money and Spirit power and Soul are their own guitar indie animal. So when the opening chords to the opening riffs of Panic and Bigmouth Strikes Again chime into the set so early, naturally the atmosphere explodes with cheers and people dance. It’s always a special moment and Johnny seems happy to indulge the fanfare and throw out an equally impeccable renditions of How Soon is Now.  I do wonder sometimes if he actually sang these songs in the original Smiths studio recordings. Johnny Marr was and is always amazing live. I have seen him three times and have never feel happier than being a Johnny Marr gig.

As impressive as all the headlines acts were this Victorious there was a lot going on in various stages tucked away from the main avenues. Every time I go to the festival it seems to get bigger. I really welcome the initiative to bring in upcoming artists onto smaller stages, especially if they are scattered few and far between, waiting to be discovered in far flung corners. This adds to the festival experience of finding your own new favourite bands, seeking new music and likeminded fans. I have always thought that interacting and getting to know new people, not just crammed into a queue for the day but at a leisurely pace in open space made all the great festivals what they are and Victorious is in that territory.


  • In Common is not for profit. We rely on donations from readers to keep the site running. Could you help to support us for as little as 25p a week? Please help us to carry on offering independent grass roots media. Visit:



The Vaccines by Paul Floyd.


Jerry Williams by Paul Floyd.
Crawlers by Paul Floyd.
Love Always, SKM by Paul Floyd.
Soul45 DJs by Paul Floyd.
Festival goers by Emma Wurfel.
By Steve Stringer.
By Tom Langford.
By Emma Wurfel.
Mae Mueller by Tom Langford.
Katy B by Elliot McRae.
Batala by Tom Langford.
Dara O:Brian by Emma Wurfel.
Dylan by Tom Langford.
Ellie Goulding by Tom Langford.
Freestylers by Emma Wurfel.
Sea Girls by TomLangford.
Sigrid by Emma Wurfel.
Ben Howard by Elliot McRae.
Heather Small by Russ Leggatt.
Batala by Tom Langford.

You may also like:

Review: Storming Bastille – PennFest, Buckinghamshire, Saturday July 22

Review Round-up: Wickham Festival, 3 – 6 August 2023

Review: Let’s Rock, Southampton Common, 8 July 2023

Review: The Isle of Wight Festival, 2023