Isle of Wight Festival 2024: A weekend of nostalgic hits!


Back for its 25th festival (including the 1968-1970 runs, as well as 2002-present), the Isle of Wight Festival returned from June 20th-23rd for another year. Leaning heavily into 90s and 2000s nostalgia, headline sets came from The Prodigy and Green Day on Friday and Sunday, with 80’s music lovers served by a helping of the Pet Shop Boys on Saturday.

After a fun indie-pop romp from Scouting For Girls on the early main stage-less Thursday, The Bootleg Beatles opened the festival properly on Friday by blasting through a host of Fab Four classics. Covering the early lighthearted hits such as ‘She Loves You’ and ‘Twist and Shout’, to the later heavier sounds of ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Revolution’, they drew in one of the largest crowds in recent years for the early main stage Friday slot.

Fronted by the extremely charismatic Justin Hawkins, The Darkness was among the few rock’ n’ roll representatives on the main stage this year. Mainly playing songs from their 2003 debut ‘Permission to Land’, even album tracks like ‘Friday Night’ and ‘Givin’ Up’ went down well with the crowd – surely helped by Justin’s natural ability always to have the audience within the palm of his hand. Although their #2 hit ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ went down by far the best, and was easily the highlight of the set, it is incorrect to brand the band as a mere one-hit wonder when they have so much appeal beyond that.

Credit: Sarah Lincoln

The Streets’ mix of lowkey rap from the project’s mastermind Mike Skinner’s early albums ‘Original Pirate Material’ and ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ and recent move into dance collaborations with the likes of Fred again.. and Chris Lorenzo was a little jarring, but ultimately made for an eclectic but thoughtful set as the evenings’ sunset.

Although they of course lacked the iconic late Keith Flint following his passing in 2019, The Prodigy’s second Isle of Wight Festival headlining set (their first was in 2015) was just as engaging and hyper as you’d expect. Covering their discography right from their 1992 debut ‘Experience’ to 2018’s ‘No Tourists’, their mix of rock and dance was an immense spectacle when combined with their intense light show.

Credit: Dan Reif

Saturday saw former Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears lead the crowd through a mix of the US indie disco band’s 2000s classics, alongside songs from his more recent solo albums ‘Jake Shears’ and ‘Last Man Dancing’. Although the band’s return has been long awaited, Shears alone is more than capable of making a crowd dance on his own.

Somehow celebrating 25 years together as a group, the newly-named S Club arrived at the Isle of Wight Festival for the first time this year. Although their set’s first half was coldly received with lesser-known promo single ‘Bring the House Down’ and early album track ‘Friday Night’ performed, they delivered back-to-back bangers to close it off including ‘Bring It All Back’, ‘Don’t Stop Movin”, and ‘Reach’.

After having their set cancelled halfway through due to windy conditions in 2022, performing just 7 songs, Stockport’s finest band Blossoms returned to perform many more than that as they delivered an upbeat hour of synth-pop and indie-rock. No poor weather in sight! Ending the set with an extended jam, Blossoms’ musicianship combined with catchy tunes shows exactly why they continue to scale the UK’s festival lineups each year.

In contrast, they were followed by Keane, a band now firmly in ‘legacy’ territory as they celebrate 20 years of debut album ‘Hopes and Fears’ with no new music for half a decade. Through their emotional, piano-led anthems such as ‘Bend & Break’ and the iconic ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, alongside the funkier affairs of ‘The Way I Feel’ and ‘Spiralling’, their almost headline-length set was a highlight of the weekend with frontman Tom Chaplin’s powerful vocals being the clear star of the show.

As part of their “music and memories” ‘Dreamworld’ tour that spans much of their 40-year discography, the legendary synth-pop duo the Pet Shop Boys sound as good as they ever have. Despite now approaching 70, frontman Neil Tennant’s distinctive vocals are remarkably solid in comparison to his contemporaries, and the duo’s live band fleshed out their electronic sounds that created a live experience to remember.

Credit: Sarah Louise Bennett

5 years on from their first appearance on the Big Top stage, Irish pop-rockers Picture This progressed to the heights of the main stage on Sunday, mainly focusing on music from their new album ‘Parked Car Conversations’.

Pop-rock continued on the Sunday main stage with the Isle of Wight Festival debut of McFly. Opening with their cringeworthy 2023 single ‘Where Did All the Guitars Go?’, beyond that the four-piece’s showmanship soared as they rattled through hits such as ‘All About You’, ‘Obviously’ and ‘Shine A Light’.

Heavier rock fans were well served again with the return of Essex’s Nothing But Thieves. Making their first main stage appearance since an early slot in 2017, the five-piece showed exactly why they are one of the most exciting faces in modern rock. From the heavier sounds of their debut and 2020’s ‘Moral Panic’ to the 80s synth wave of their new album ‘Dead Club City’, it would be a mistake to try and ever place this band in a box.

As the sun set, Scotland’s Simple Minds delivered a mildly fun if perhaps low-energy hour of 80s classics and more recent songs. For a band whose synths make up some of their most recognisable sounds, it was sadly low in their performance’s mix in favour of guitars, leaving songs such as ‘Glittering Prize’ and ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ a shadow of their former selves.

As someone from the island who goes to the festival most years, the weekend is at its most exciting when it’s closed by a big international name, especially when it’s an artist or band who has never played the festival before. This year, the criteria was filled in spades by Californian pop-punk legends Green Day. Playing their iconic 2004 album ‘American Idiot’ (almost) in full, alongside several songs from 1994’s ‘Dookie’ and this year’s ‘Saviors’, the band’s two hours of fast-paced rock went by in a breeze as the crowd’s energy matched that of Green Day’s eternally youthful frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Although they bizarrely left after ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ with little in terms of a ‘goodbye’, that took little away from the festival’s best headline set of at least the last half-decade.

Credit: Sarah Louise Bennett


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