Isle of wight
Brian May and Adam Lambert perform at the Isle of Wight festival 2016 Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight festival is known for pulling out all the stops with its headliners, as displayed last year when they managed to trump Glastonbury to obtaining Fleetwood Mac as the 2015 headline act. The question is can this year's two main headliners - mighty British staples Queen and The Who - give a classic performance, despite the fact both bands have lost 50% of their original line up and the surviving members have a combined age of 278?


Unfortunately for the festival, once you get past the headliners there isn't a lot else further down the bill. That was evident this year when the opening act on the Friday wasn't even on stage until 4pm, when Sheffield band Reverend and the Makers launched into their set. The band did manage to pay the first tribute to the many icons to have died recently, dedicating their most well known song, Champion of the World, to the late Muhammed Ali.

Next up was the triumphant return of pop rock band Busted, back to their full line following the return of their own prodigal son, Charlie, to play their first ever major UK festival. Everyone should watch Busted if given the chance - and I say this for two surprising reasons: that Charlie doesn't seem dead behind the eyes singing the songs he spent years distancing himself away from, and for the number of songs you never realised you knew the words to.

There really wasn't many better mass sing along songs at this festival than Sleeping with The Lights On or Year 3000, their set provided the first genuine crowd pleasing performance of the weekend. Only thing that let them down was bassist Matt Willis casually dropping the F-bomb when talking to the crowd. Come on Matt, there's kids (and absolutely loads of them) here.

Isle of Wight
Charlie Simpson and Matt Willis share a joke as Busted perform on the main stage on Friday Sara Lincoln

Also on the first day were Everything Everything, a band who have progressed with every album now singer Jonathan Higgs has toned down his migraine inducing, high-pitched vocal style during the later albums Arc and Get to Heaven. All dressed in various silver outfits and looking like characters from a 1970s sci-fi show that tried to imagine what people would look like in the 21st century. Everything Everything proved they would in no way be out of their depth in being moved higher up the bill on any festival, but without ever really reaching the dizzy heights of a band they're often compared to, Foals.

The first of the joint headliners on the Friday night was Welsh rock heroes, The Sterophonics, and, if we're honest, it is hard to get excited about watching them in the year 2016. They played their good songs (Bartender and the Thief, A Thousand Trees) and even played their not so good chart bothering ballads (Mr Writer) and terrible ditties (Have a Nice Day) with the confident ease of a band who are now considered to be veterans of the British rock scene. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise to see that they've upped their performance to a level expected of the headline act they have become. Overall, the biggest praise I could level at The Stereophonics' set is that singer Kelly Jones really hasn't aged for nearly 20 years.

Isle of Wight
Stereophonics were one of two headliners on the first night of the festival Callum Baker

The second headliner touched down in the form of dance veterans, Faithless, a band who still seem to be constantly playing the festival circuit despite breaking up for several years and not releasing a chart topping album for over a decade. Even so, the band's live repertoire has given them a reputation for being the ideal festival band and, tonight's performance lived up to the hype.

Faithless were confident enough to play their most well known hit, Insomnia, early on in the set - prompting a mass dance off in the crowd hundreds of yards from the stage - and instead opted to explore six albums worth of material , including the anthemic singles God is a DJ and We Come One. Despite being classed primarily as a dance act, a full band joined permanent members, comprising singer Maxi Jazz and keyboardist Sister Bliss. Faithless were able to play a variety of musicals styles, including their session guitarist busting out some AC/DC riffs, proving their ability to please festival crowds with their winning formula, time and again. No matter who is in the audience, their show never seems to grow old on the crowds.


Ise of Wight
Fans wear mask of the late David Bowie during the festival's trubute the artists Sara Lincoln

Saturday afternoon saw the festival pay tribute to late pop icon David Bowie, whose last ever major UK performance came when he headlined The Isle of Wight Festival in 2005. Throughout the day, staff and volunteers were handing out masks of the singer's face to be worn while screens at the front of the main stage played highlights from his 2005. All this came before a much hyped secret performance, which turned out to be Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet and Andrea Corr ( of The Corrs) performing an acoustic version of Starman - all before the Corrs themselves played on the main stage. Personally, I'm not sure it was an adequate tribute to one of the greatest, most diverse and most prolific artists of all time, but still - a nice touch all the same.

Later on saw The Kills perform, who win the award for the coolest band at the festival by a country mile. The duo, consisting of Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince, managed to do something as simple as drinking and smoking while performing and make it look like being in the band is the greatest job on the planet.

Isle of Wight
Iggy pop was one of the highlights of the entire weekend

One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was rock icon Iggy Pop, who still manages to be one the worlds greatest performers at the ripe old age of 69, with new album Post Pop Depression scaling up the US top ten album charts. Beginning the set in the best possible way, with a double whammy of Lust for Life and The Passenger, the topless (as always) Iggy Pop put artists half his age to shame with the amount of energetic showmanship he thrusts and howls into every performance (and the only person with bingo wings that you don't mind watching dry hump an amplifier.) The set list included classics such a Nightclubbing and I Wanna Be Your Dog - the best song of the entire show - to an assortment of tracks such as Gardenia and Sunday from the new Post Pop Depression LP.

If there had to be a downside to Iggy's performance, it was that he didn't play with the band who feature on his latest album. Meaning neither Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme or Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helmers were present for Iggy's Isle of Wight spectacular.

Saturday night saw, what was for many, the main event of the entire weekend - the return of The Who to the Isle of Wight fest. Though they may be showing signs of ageing - including having their drum set behind a protective screen to protect their ears from the noise they've been producing for the past 50 years -Roger Daltry's microphone swinging and Pete Townsend's windmill guitar showmanship reminded the crowd why they remain one of the biggest live acts on the planet.

From opening track Who are You through to Pinball Wizard and a brilliant version if Behind Blue Eyes, each rendition of their classic hits sound fresh and fantastic; it isn't until I stood further away from the stage for a quick trip to the toilets that the full effect of Townsend's monstrous guitar playing could be felt, each heavily struck power chord still reverberating at piercing levels across the entire festival site.

Isle of Wight
Lead singer of The Who Roger Daltrey on the main stage David Ruth

The set list and the visuals may not have really changed much for the best part of ten years, but why should it? The Who didn't need fireworks or lasers to improve their performance. The songs featured in chunks of four or five tracks, taken from their different phases, such as Quadrophinia, followed by songs from Tommy, the whole set up seemed well-honed but still managed to surprise, as seen with the not as frequently performed instrumental song The Rock.

Without doubt, the best part of set was a 71-year-old Townsend sliding on his knees across the stage to huge applause and cheers from the crowd. Special mention also needs to go out to Townsend saying the unsayable, while reminiscing about their previous appearances at the festival by describing Jimi Hendrix's iconic 1969 performance as "crap"


The final day of performances was only really about one band, who I have to admit I had low expectations for. Many bands struggle to carry on without their original singer, and when your singer is widely considered to be one of the greatest frontmen of all time, it makes the task nigh on impossible.

Any scepticism I had about watching Queen without Freddie Mercury in the year 2016 was quickly blown away, and one of the key reasons for that is the man they brought in, Adam Lambert. Trying to be a like for like replacement would be a pointless idea, so you have to respect Lambert for not turning the performance into an overblown karaoke act. The former American Idol contestant is a proper showman, proving he was born to be on stage in front if tens of thousands. By my count, there was at least six costume for Lambert throughout the show, including at one stage wearing a diamond encrusted crown, showing he has the flamboyance needed to fill Mercury's shoes.

From opener One Vision to Somebody to Love and I Want to Break Free, each song was widely appreciated by the crowd and at on point I had to begrudgingly admit maybe Queen and Lambert have put on the greatest show of the entire weekend.

Isle of Wight
Adam Lambert was one of the stars of the whole festival Liz Murray

There was even a touching moment from Lambert when he dedicated Who Wants to Live Forever to the 50 people who died in the mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando.

Despite being more than comfortable doing so, the band made sure the whole entire set wasn't focused on Lambert, with Brian May displaying why he is still considered a guitar hero and Roger Taylor not only providing the stable rock and roll drum solo, but also well-grounded vocals on many of the tracks, including David Bowie's part in the classic track, Under Pressure.

Sadly, not all of the revamped Queen set was great. A section which May performed a solo while on a 30feet pedestal somehow managed to come over as fantastically over the top and slightly boring. However, these moments were minimal compared to the rest of the show. One aspect I did have concern about was how would they perform Bohemian Rhapsody, a song so obscene it surely can't be touched by anyone other than Mercury. The answer was simple, just play the song via the speaker and let the crowd drunkingly sing along like everyone has done several times in their lives, show footage of Mercury playing the song live before bringing in Lambert the rest of the band for the rocking finale. Somehow the whole thing worked.

The final two songs of We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions provided the perfect mass singalong once more from the entire crowd, before an explosion of gold glitter into the crowd being a fittingly camp end to one of the most enjoyable festival performances I have ever seen from a band who rarely play festivals- a feat I didn't think would be possible.

Isle of Wight
Fireworks close out the festival Dylan Roberts