The Isle of Wight Festival 2003Isle of Wight Rock Festival, Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight. 14th June 2003.
Photos and report by 'Boo.
After the successful return to the island of the Isle of Wight festival in 2002 after a 32 year break, plans for 2003 were even bigger, more adventurous and more environmentally aware. It was the first European festival to be declared Carbon Neutral, in association with environmental charity Future Forests. The music industry, like everyone, creates greenhouse gases through the staging music events like this and through CD production and distibution and Future Forests aim to balance the environmental effects of the Isle of Wight Festival through a reforestation project in Mozambique.
The Isle of Wight Rock Festival saw music return to Seaclose Park in Newport for a two day weekend festival with on-site camping. Bands performing represented several nationalities, genres and eras, with new bands The Burn and The Thrills alongside experienced acts like Iggy Pop, Paul Weller and Bryan Adams, turning up to show the young upstarts how it's done.
Starsailor were scheduled to appear on the first day of the festival, Saturday 14th June, two weeks later than last year's Jubilee bank holiday special. Also on the Saturday bill were fellow northerners The Burn, The Thrills (was it a joke or an error that their dressing room door read The Trills?), The Cooper Temple Clause (reputedly the band with the best hair), John Squire (formerly of the Stone Roses), Iggy Pop and headliner Paul Weller. Sunday's line up included The Counting Crows, Hell is for Heroes, The Darkness and Canadian headliner Bryan Adams.
The weather forecast for early sharp electrical storms filled festival goers with dread, but by the time the day grew light, they had passed and the sun was already in residence and stayed there all day and no doubt led to a lot of bright red faces and shoulders by nightfall. Starsailor's set was scheduled for 20:40 and the afternoon entertainment was launched by local competition winners The Nautical Theme who beat 22 other island bands for the honour of opening the festival. As the heat of the sun increased, Balasco, The Burn, The Thrills, The Cooper Temple Clause, John Squire and Iggy Pop entertained the high spirited and enthusiastic crowd.
During the afternoon Starsailor arrived early in order to soak up some of the atmosphere and enjoy some of the line-up for themselves and to undertake a question and answer session with fans through their message board, you can read a full transcript of their answers, along with photographs of the 'chat' which took place backstage in their dressing room.
Starsailor took the stage as the sun started to set and marked their return to the Newport stage with new track Music Was Saved. The band admitted beforehand that they were unusually nervous as they hadn't performed live for several weeks, although it wasn't evident in their energetic start. Barry was also giving a first live airing to a newly acquired Hammond organ and Ben's drums required some last minute adjustments before their set. During the performance as James introduced one of the new songs, explaining it was from the new album, said that if it didn't sell well, they might not be able to do festivals like this again and they'd be forced to appear on 'where-are-they-now' tours, "so please buy it, so we can carry on doing this"!
As James removed the microphone from the stand for the second song, it was evident to Starsailor fans that Alcoholic was to follow as Barry and James work together on the song's melancholic start, raising the tempo for the next number with Poor Misguided Fool.
James played tribute to the headline act of the night Paul Weller by explaining that he attended his first festival six years previously when Paul Weller was headlining and little did he know that he'd one day have the honour of supporting the 'Modfather' himself. As he spoke, I don't think James realised Paul Weller was stood at the side of the stage and raised his glass to him. Paul later returned the compliment, playing Broken Stones for Starsailor in the encore of his own set.
Another new song Telling Them was dedicated to a growing list of people, that probably covered everyone present by the time James completed his list and ran into the last new track of the night, an obvious crowd pleaser even on one hearing Four to the Floor, the song that both Stel and Barry admitted earlier in the day was their personal favourite to perform.
By now it was almost completely dark and a loudly accompanied rendition of Love is Here single Lullaby ran into an acoustic cover of Neil Young's Needle and the Damage Done, perhaps appreciated most by the older music fans in attendance - like me - and perhaps a nod to the festival's musical heritage!
A song that has been recently re-recorded and may appear the new album Born Again sounded incredible in the open air on a barmy summer evening, as did Silence is Easy.
The song that James stated in the web chat was his personal favourite to perform Tie Up My Hands indicated that the all too short set was coming to a close, now in full darkness and the stage looking and sounding stunning. Predictably, the set ended with by far the most popular song that saw the entire crowd bouncing up and down as one, arms aloft; Good Souls. After a mishap with a mis-directed drum stick at the London Astoria in February, Ben pointedly walked to the front of the stage so that everyone could clearly see he was about to throw them and launched them one by one into the ecstatic crowd.
Post-performance analysis had the boys declaring that they thought they started shakily but improved as they got going. "We'll get better the more we do". I don't know, it already sounded pretty damn good to me!
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