It's perhaps fitting that my prevailing memory of this year's Isle of Wight Festival will be guitars. This was after all the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's legendary performance on the Island, something that was being widely celebrated by festival organiser John Giddings and his team across the site. Fender, for example, brought some specially designed guitars to the party for artists including You Me At 6 to play, and there was also a world record attempt for the most number of people in one place to be wearing a mask, the face in question was naturally Hendrix himself. Despite that backdrop, it was some of the guitarists who played across the weekend that demonstrated the power of the instrument and reinforced that guitar based rock isn't on its last legs as some have speculated over the past few years.
The festival got into full swing with a Stones-esque swagger on Friday afternoon when The Struts took to the Main Stage. Their enthusiasm signalled a continuation of their set from the previous year's festival, indeed they are an ideal opening act when you want to energise a crowd. Their appearance at Download the following day, will no doubt have had a similar effect. There seemed to be a Rolling Stones theme to many of the acts getting the festival underway. Over in the Big Top The Ruen Brothers covered 'Miss You' during their rousing set that was well received.
The first moment that sent a shiver down my spine this year was the Counting Crows though. The guitar line to 'Round Here' sent a wave of excitement across the main arena. It was a strong opening statement in a nine song set that featured the likes of 'Mr Jones', 'Miami', and 'Rain King' into which singer Adam Duritz dropped some Elbow lyrics as a nod of the hat to Guy Garvey. If Counting Crows' guitars weren't haunting enough, it was actually The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach whose riffs were the most powerful and elemental of the day. The dirty Blues grit of Auerbach's playing was like a roll of thunder that saw the heavens open to drench the crowd in torrential rain. While much of the set was dedicated to material culled from 'El Camino' and 'Brothers', rather than recent record 'Turn Blue', the band's graduation to a headlining slot was well deserved and warranted. The final song of the set 'Little Black Submarines', which builds from a delicate solo performance to a dramatic climax, utilised every trick in the book for The Black Keys' expanded touring band. If Patrick Carney's drums and Auerbach's guitars are the perfect union on record, it seems their live shows rightly now have the power to command top billing with the inclusion of bassist Richard Swift and keyboardist John Clement Wood.
Continue reading: Isle Of Wight Festival - 2015 Live Review
James first came to my attention with their rather wonderful JimOne EP. I then went on to eagerly follow their releases up to Goldmother (which in my opinion peaked with Strip Mine). I saw them play a celebratory show at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom the year after the Roses played there and I saw them steal the show at Glastonbury after being a last minute replacement for Morrissey, even covering 'We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful' better than the great man himself. Shortly after that their music took a downwards trajectory and they chose a path more in line with the stadium rock of Simple Minds than the otherworldly, eccentric James I knew and loved. They split in 2001 and I heard they got back together a few years ago, but I hadn't heard anything up to this point, so it was with great interest I approached this album.
The Morning After is a mini album and serves as a Part 2 for another previous mini album The Night before which was released earlier on in the year. Word has it that this album was an opportunity for James to use the slower songs they often leave off other albums. I wish someone had talked them out of this as on initial listens it does indeed appear they are scraping the bottom of the songwriting barrel.
Continue reading: James, The Morning After Album Review
For a band whose lengthy career consists of 10 studio albums, twenty UK top 40 singles and 12 million albums sold worldwide, James have never really ignited the imagination like they perhaps could have done, choosing instead to straddle the line between pure pop brilliance and dull mediocrity. Unfortunately, The Night Before continues this trend, with seven brand new songs which somehow overall just don't hit the mark.
Continue reading: James, The Night Before Album Review
Then -- on Christmas Day -- came Black Christmas, a holiday film for people who were bored as Santa battled Jack Frost and yawned as Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem on a donkey. For audiences like us, there could be nothing more joyous than watching annoying sorority chicks getting diced to pieces on Christmas break by an inbred psychopath.
Continue reading: Black Christmas (2006) Review