Isle of Wight Radio's Tom Stroud sums up a weekend of top music at Bestival 2012.
Trying to sum up Bestival 2012 in one word is difficult but I'm going to go for "joy". Not just the sunshine, the beautiful setting, the amazing crowd and the wonderful performances but ,I think, the way that they all blended together to make "that thing". Those festival moments that stay lodged in the brain long after the sun has set and thousands have visitors have returned to the mainland. Whether it's that crackle in the air when 50,000 people connect, watching a stunning headline set under the night sky, or maybe that little snapshot of watching a band you've never heard before with people you've never met. There was a lot of that this weekend.
Without doubt Stevie Wonder was the pinnacle of an already brilliant weekend. Stevie calmly walking to the front of the stage at the beginning of a two hour set full of hits. Some of them were Stevie's own and some songs were tributes to other performers - "The Way You Make Me Feel", played "for Michael" and "Imagine" given a gospel feel "for John... it's your birthday soon". Later on Stevie revisits the Beatles for "She Loves You", telling Robin Hill about how he "watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964 - I had my ear pressed right up to the speaker." Watching him perform shows you just how important he is - so many classic songs that took millions of people across the planet on a journey, from Detroit to the world, from the Motown sound to soul and funk and the inspiration for so many other forms of music. When says "let's do some Little Stevie Wonder songs now" and strikes up "Uptight" it's a reminder that he had his first number 1 record aged just 13; even more striking is that his voice has the same timbre and range that it did in the 70s. A truly spiritual performance, closing with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and Stevie's own salute to Martin Luther King, "Happy Birthday". Goosebumps? Absolutely.
Saturday night headliners New Order delivered their own set of classics and emotions, playing all of their own hits and closing their performance with a version of Joy Divsion's "Love Will Tear Us Apart." Bernard Sumner tells the crowd "this is the song to end all festivals... and it's ours", at which point the screens fill with images of Ian Curtis, a troubled icon, whose suicide changed everything for the perfomers on stage and clearly resonates with many people in the crowd. A lump in the throat moment, coming at the end of an otherwise upbeat set, with all the hits and a reminder that New Order might be the most Bestival-ish of all of the headliners so far, with roots in postpunk guitarland but another foot in club-culture.
Florence and The Machine's Friday night set has its own emotional charge with something of a homecoming feel. The staging might be ethereal, with Florence striding around like some sort of pre-Raphaelite faerie, but there's also a feeling of confidence and achievement. The band have played Bestival so many times over the last few years, first as unknowns in corners of the site, now as mainstage headliners in their own right. Their songs are strangely personal, yet seemingly designed to be played for huge crowds in massive outdoor spaces ("You Got The Love", "Raise It Up", "Spectrum") and Florence's voice is carried in the air across Robin Hill. We could hear her bellowing "say my name" from the bandstand!
Across the weekend, as you might expect with Bestival, there's a huge array of performers from many genres. Organiser Rob Da Bank doesn't really like the idea of "headliners", hoping that festivalgoers engage with the weekend as a whole and wander the site taking in as much variety as possible. This does deliver its own charms - for us, The Orb playing "Little Fluffy Clouds" in the ambient forest and some great performances on the bandstand (where many Island bands got to show off their wares to the visiting crowds).
Representing the new, perhaps the biggest artist to emerge in the last year is Emeli Sande whose Friday night set carried all the elements that made her appearances at the Olympic ceremonies such a success. She's all about sincerity, with strong melodies, from her debut album which has even managed to outsell Adele and is 2012s biggest seller so far. On Saturday night Two Door Cinema Club play a sprightly, humble set, with the band taking time to thank the crowd, reminding us that their first festival set outside their native Ireland was on the Island. On Friday night The XX returned to Bestival. Last time they were here they'd just collected the Mercury Music Prize for their debut, now they're unveiling songs from their forthcoming album #2. They might be on a bigger stage but there's still lots of dry ice, soft vocals, jagged shards of icy guitar and an almost awkward shyness from the performers. On Sunday it's the complete opposite as Rizzle Kicks ignore the rain and bring their own unique energy and a rousing "Down With The Trumpets".
There's also a chance to take in a few rare performances across the weekend. De La Soul take us back to the classic hip-hop era and their seminal 3 Feet High And Rising album, and The Earth Wind And Fire Experience play an hour of tightly drilled funk finishing with an immense version of "September." Oddly, they don't play "Let's Groove" or, somewhat unforgivably, "Boogie Wonderland". Sister Sledgeget it spot on, using their set to play extended versions of all the hits. It's always a joy to hear "Thinking Of You" and their elegant disco is one of the most warmly received moments of the weekend. They get into the wildlife spirit too, inviting costumed music fans to join them on-stage for "He's The Greatest Dancer". There's a wonderful moment during "Lost In Music" when the girls take the time to survey the crowd, checking all the costumes in the sunshine and telling Robin Hill that "the whole world should look like this".
As always, with four nights of music, many stages and hundreds of performers, it's impossible to take it all in. Didn't get to the Psychedelic Worm? Missed your moment in the Ambient Forest? There's always next year. If this year's is anything to go by you'll be in for a treat. Rob Da Bank tells us he's already booked his Saturday night headliner so let the speculation begin. In the meantime a massive congratulations to everyone involved with making Bestival run so smoothly and so safely. From a calendar point of view Bestival is the "full stop" at the end of the UK festival season and with Stevie Wonder's peerless performance it's safe to say we went out in style. A wonderful weekend to make the Isle Of Wight proud.