Like Christmas, V Festival comes but once a year. Unlike yuletide however, it involves copious amounts of alcohol consumed by thousands of revellers all of whom end up either hugging one another or asleep a little bit tipsy amidst the party. Scratch that, it’s just like Christmas, only in the summer in the middle of a massive country estate. And so, it was there we made our annual pilgrimage to for summertime festivities; ready for two days of mud, mayhem and a cornucopia of splendid music.
First up, the Channel 4 stage and Dodgy whom by their own admission were playing the Status Quo slot (reference to the Quo opening Band Aid in 1984). Unlike the long haired Dad rockers however, Dodgy seemed to be bemoaning the fact that they were opening the festival, as if it were some kind of insult. Come on, boys! If you want to headline it would help if you’d released a song in the past 15 years. Once they’d got over themselves they went on to play an accomplished set which was enjoyed by the crowd – many of whom were still in nappies when the boys were last frequenting the chart.
In stark contrast to Dodgy’s whining, it was visible that The Stranglers positively relished opening proceedings on the main stage. They may be in the twilight of their career, but when you’ve got classics in your locker like ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Always the Sun’ and ‘No More Heroes’, you’re guaranteed to get the crowd a-rocking and in the mood for a day of fun and they did just that with aplomb.
Chants of ‘Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole’ echoed round the arena which could only mean one thing – the introduction of cheeky chappie Olly Murs. Instantly likeable, it took the Londoner no time at all to get the crowd bopping as he ran through his repertoire of melodic pop songs and jigged around the stage grinning from ear to ear. Cover of the day: The Jam’s ‘Town called Malice’, executed with a modern slant, had everybody bopping in the afternoon sun. Splendid!
Is there a better opener to a set than ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness? Judging by the crowd reaction it would appear not, as everyone went a little crazy with the ‘Nutty Boys’. As is normally the way, two great acts play in tandem and thus it was this year with Miles Kane performing on the other stage at the same time as Camden Town’s finest. Having seen Madness the previous year I opted to venture over to the Channel 4 stage and partake in an hour’s rocking courtesy of Mr Kane. Seemingly more at home on stage than in the studio, the man from the Wirral belted through his high octane set which included hits ‘Come Closer’ and the cleverly titled ‘Inhaler’, much to the delight of the large audience.
Up next, The Enemy who wasted no time at all in taking advantage of the fervour stoked up by Mr Kane. Obviously inspired by ‘Oasis’ and ‘Kasabian’ in their ‘we know how to get the crowd whipped up into a frenzy’ approach to playing live, the three-piece from Coventry ploughed through their set at breakneck speed plying the crowd with stomp rock classics such as ‘Aggro’, ‘Had Enough’ and ‘Away from Here’ and as always delivered a thoroughly entertaining and powerful show.
Back at the main stage it was time for a change of pace, with the legend that is Mr Tom Jones taking his turn to entertain the masses. Whether you like him or not, it’s obligatory to be in attendance when ‘The Voice’ performs and it seemed like this was a view that most of the audience took as the arena was packed full of happy revellers bopping along to greats like ‘It’s not Unusual’ and the ‘Green Green Grass of Home’. Aside the usual classics there were – for me – two great moments in Welshmans set; namely an acoustic calypso version of ‘Delilah’ and two new tunes written with his usual style and guile by a certain Mr Jack White expertly executed by TJ. Awesome… simply awesome!
Promoted from his performance in the Arena tent last year, next up was Tinie Tempah with his own unique brand of English rap. As with last year, the charismatic singer jumped and hollered around the stage with the verve and swagger of a front man who was been bestowed with a myriad of MOBO and Brit Awards over the past few years. Joined on stage in part by the equally as talented Rita Ora, his set included catchy hits ‘Pass Out’ and ‘Hitz’ which had the crowd bouncing and waving their arms in unison as one.
Appearances from Noah and the Whale and the…shall we say ‘unique’, LMFAO followed and then it was over to the Arena for V Festival stalwarts the Happy Mondays. It always strikes me that a band which grew up and made a name for themselves in the 1908s still have such a pull nowadays, but sure enough the tent was packed to the rafters with fans of all ages jumping around like loons to hits like ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Wrote for Luck’. As Bez and SWR did what they do best there was an added bonus as Madness’ own Suggs joined the Mancunians on stage for a memorable duet.
It was then time for the finale and the tremendous Killers. Although they’ve been away for a while, the boys from Las Vegas are a massive draw and still have all of their panache and expert musicianship. Opening with new single ‘Runaways’ they ripped through their set treating the huge crowd to their favourites ‘Mr Brightside’ and ‘All These Things that I have Done’. In an ode to the kings of Britpop they also performed their own unique version of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ to the obvious delight of the patriotic crowd. And then with a thank you they were gone and that concluded a day of musical joy in the Shropshire sun. Tired, a little drunk but evidently very happy, the party goers made their way to their tents to sleep as best they could in preparation of doing it all again the following day.