Review: Bestival 2011

Reporter Andrew Trendell went along to review Bestival 2011 on the Isle of Wight.

YOU can’t beat a timeless classic and a sense of magic, and there’s something inescapably intoxicating about Bestival.

Whether it’s the location in the plush and rolling green hills of the Isle of Wight, the countless tents offering everything from a roller disco to a burlesque tea room or the atmosphere of thousands of revellers dressed to the theme of popstars and divas, Bestival is a place brimming with imagination – and that’s before we even come to the line up.

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Kicking things in fitting style were The Correspondents who dazzled Bestival with their eclectic glitch-pop, space-circus catsuits and the most impressive dancing on a running machine I’ve seen in my life.

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson is almost summer incarnate. He may not be the most engaging showman, but with a fiery band and a whole lot of sunshine, gems like Barbara Ann, Good Vibrations and I Get Around sound as huge and life-affirming today as they ever have.

A dose of dance-rock duo Chromeo’s and infectious electro-pop is just what the doctor ordered before Mogwai delivered one of the most evocative sets of the weekend. With an impressive balance of restraint and sheer power, their set of epic post-rock is a true tour-de-force both visually and aurally.

Saturday begins with the same choreographed insanity that you’d expect from Bestival – with an appearance from Mr Motivator. Once everyone’s shaken off their disbelief, reggae behemoths Toots and the Maytals blow the proverbial roof of the Isle of Wight.

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The recent Mercury-winning PJ Harvey naturally leans quite heavily on Let England Shake, which is both fantastic, because it’s magnificent and sounds all the more ethereal when played live in the moonlight on the Isle Of Wight, but a tad unfortunate as she has such a rich and accomplished back-catalogue.

It was only and always, however, going to be The Cure who seized the weekend. Playing their only European date of the year with a glorious two and a half hour set was truly an event in it’s own right.

As gothic godfather Robert Smith mournfully sings “yesterday I felt so old, I thought that I would die,” on the incredible In Between Days, you can’t help but laugh, safe in the knowledge that these are songs that will live on forever.

All present would agree that The Cure put on nothing less than a flawless showcase in how they’re one of the most important and impeccable pop bands of the last century.

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Sunday rolls around and we all know the summer is more or less over, but nothing says it more like a flat, limp and lifeless set from The Drums, whose drab performance of what’s supposed to be blissful surf-rock was almost the final nail in the coffin. Almost, that is, if it wasn’t for the show-stealing belter from Kelis that followed.

All that’s left after that is to pay huge kudos to Björk for seeing the festival out in the only way she can – with a mind-bending exercise in eccentric genius.

Her set owes a bit too much for her upcoming experimental album Biophillia, but it’s still a majestic and show-stopping affair and nothing less than a marvellous spectacle as her wild-child imagination explodes across the stage.

Standing like a pixie from outer-space, surrounded by choir of countless maniacs, Björk’s set ends with the rabble-rousing and furious howl of Declare Independence before the grand finale – the superb Bestival tradition of a firework spectacular a beautiful structure set alight with colour.

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As the glittered-up masses who were strangers just days before rave on arm-in-arm to an explosive late night DJ set from Fatboy Slim, it’s as if they’d been planning this for years. As the summer of 2011 fades into distant memory, this year’s Bestival is one that shall endure – another timeless classic.

Review by Andrew Trendell

Photos by Louise Roberts, Andrew Whitton, Jamie Baker, Ian Taylor, Victor Frankowski and Derek Bremner.