Music royalty went head to head this weekend when KINGS OF LEON and ‘Queen B’ headlined V Festival.
BEYONCÉ brought the festival to a close with a dazzling performance on the Sunday night.
The ‘Mrs Carter Show’ wasn’t punctual but when it arrived it roared into life in a career spanning set that included hits like ‘Who Runs The World? (Girls),’ ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Single Ladies.’
For me, there was always a risk with watching BEYONCÉ that after hearing so many positive reviews and therefore having such high expectations, I could have been left disappointed.
However, she was just perfect.
The show (once started), was meticulous and stunning. Video interludes and a series of costume changes were works of art that gave the show narrative and insight to BEYONCÉ both as a person and a performer. Her band (drummer in particular), dancers and backing singers were insanely good.
The Mrs Carter Machine reached its end with a tribute to the late WHITNEY HOUSTON in a cover of ‘I Will Always Love You,’ before ending with ‘Halo,’ an emotive end to the rollercoaster of a headline act.
It was an exceptional performance; fabulous, fierce, energetic and mesmerising. ‘Queen B’ deserves her title.
As for the rest of V Festival, it was intense.
I am use to the three-four day festival in which people ebb and flow into tents and stages to watch the music but from the second I arrived at Weston Park, LAWSON were underway on the 4Music Stage and the weekend was in full swing.
It always amazed me how there can be a stark difference in atmosphere from one festival to the next and V Festival proved this again. I have already mentioned the intensity of the festival but I believe this was helped by the variation in genre and experience of the acts and how they filtered that into a line-up.
There seems to be an unwritten rule in which a line-up is decided in putting all the same genres on one stage then ranging from popularity but...V Festival didn’t seem to have that. The logical choices didn’t materialise which sometimes left me feeling like I was constantly running back and forth between stages.
I also discovered that V Festival is very much a music festival- enjoyed by music fans- there is no room for passengers as the site offers nothing more than just the music. Once the headliners had finished and people were shipped outside the arena, there was nothing else to offer the festival-goers but the inside of their respective tents. It was odd really but it does go some way to explain why V Festival isn’t considered the ‘family friendly’ festival.
I also found V Festival to be the first ‘smartphone’ festival that I have attended. By that I mean, there was an interactive element involved in the weekend with #Vbigselfie being a trend across the weekend. As good an idea as this, there is the filming of shows and songs in a crowd that comes with that too and so my opinion is divided on the smartphone/festival relationship but I’m sure I won’t be able escape it in a few years.
The real victory of the weekend came for 5IVE. Nostalgia fell as heavily as the rain around the Arena Stage as the reformed boy band powered through their hits. Both inside and outside the tent (despite an extraordinary deluge) fans rolled back the years through ‘Keep On Movin’,’ ‘When The Lights Go Out’ and ‘If Ya Gettin’ Down.’
After the show, 5ive’s Scott Robinson spoke of how he was ‘blown away’ by the support they had received.
Elsewhere, SEASICK STEVE brought legendary bassist JOHN PAUL JONES with him to the 4Music Stage. SCOUTING FOR GIRLS covered CARLY SIMON’s ‘Nobody Does It Better.’ EELS all wore matching Adidas track suits. STEREOPHONICS rolled out the hits. RITA ORA teased. JASON MRAZ pleased.
In many ways, it was a shame- there was too much good music and too little time. It was difficult to absorb fully. The perfect example came with the headliners for Saturday night: KINGS OF LEON, CALVIN HARRIS, BASEMENT JAXX or JAMIE CULLUM. Amazing line-up.
KINGS OF LEON were excellent- they always are. They jumped through their anthems from ‘Molly’s Chamber’ to their newest single ‘Super Soaker’ with a stylish fluidity that is synonymous with the Followill brothers.
I do have a criticism.
As much as I enjoy KINGS OF LEON and all of their music, there is something about them live that leaves me a little deflated. They have anthems and they’re massive but on stage, there is something a little understated and reserved about them that does not live up to the quality of the music.
I cannot say that I am right but for me, they lack that stage presence and showmanship that comes with other headline quality bands.
That said, before the night was through, I caught the end of JAMIE CULLUM who oozed energy and ingenuity. It was brilliant to see somebody so enveloped in the music they were making and the performance which was capped by 5ft CULLUM leaping from on top of his piano which his band grooved through a jazz mash-up.
I did take the ‘long way’ round to JAMIE CULLUM, via CALVIN HARRIS who commanded a massive crowd at the 4Music Stage. His unique blend of dance pop was accompanied by an incredible light show which had the crowd bouncing.
A great end to the first day.
Sunday rolled around very quickly but brought with it some more than welcome sunshine.
The day kicked off with a singer/songwriter double in NINA NESBITT and GABRIELLE APLIN. Both filled out the Arena Stage and gave a lesson in the modern day singer/ songwriter category. Talking to NINA NESBITT after the show, she agreed that there is a misconception that there should be nothing more than an acoustic guitar to their acts- thankfully this wasn’t the case.
NINA NESBITT, in particular, performed like a rock star with a full band behind her; songs like ‘Brit Summer’ include comprehensive riffs that inadvertently bring rock music to a commercial audience. She is an incredible talent that is soon to be the voice behind John Lewis; an opportunity that catapulted her counterpart GABRIELLE APLIN in the public eye not 12 months ago.
PALOMA FAITH performing at V Festival 2013.
Sunday afternoon saw a special performance from MARK OWEN who combined his latest solo album with some TAKE THAT classics. PALOMA FAITH waltzed around the Main Stage with a grandiose and elegant show. TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB smashed the Main Stage- I was really impressed by how they went about such a high billing. LABRINTH brought the sunshine out again; he has an uncanny knack of making that happen. FUN were fun.
THE SCRIPT were ridiculously catchy and musically very tight, I always forget how good they are live but for me, I become disappointed when they constantly swear between songs (I know how I sound). In their favour, THE SCRIPT proved they have the quality to act as a main support to BEYONCÉ which is testament to the quality of their music.
Then Mrs Carter arrived and V Festival came to a close with arguably the best female performer of all time giving an unforgettable appointment.
Superlatives are thrown around easily but do not underestimate the fact that she could really be that good. It was unbelievable.
And so, in summary, V Festival was incredible, faultless. The line-up was brilliant and festival-goers were spoiled for choice and as the impetus seemed solely on the music then V Festival consistently delivered to a varied audience. An intense, brilliant festival.
Words: Alexander Bradley
Photos: James McCauley
This review was from V Festival, Weston Park