Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th August 2014 – V Festival @ Weston Park, Staffordshire
Words: Alexander Bradley
Justin Timberlake pulled out all the stops to cap off a glorious weekend at V Festival Weston Park.
The pop superstar fought back tears as his engrossing career-spanning set brought the curtain down on brilliant festival weekend that had seen indie-rock giants The Killers headline the Saturday night.
This was my second year at V Festival after being at the triumphant Kings Of Leon/Beyoncé double header last year. 12 months on and not much seemed to have changed physically, but somehow the festival felt more intimate. It was much nicer to have a little room to breathe and for a festival that often has a bad press, it felt like a much friendlier and cleaner environment.
Saturday kicked off wonderfully under a blanket of nonthreatening grey clouds and I was lured into the Main Stage by the captivating voice of Heather Small and the brilliance of M People. Imagine it, starting a festival with hits like ‘Proud’ and ‘Moving On Up’ it's bound to put you in a great mood for the upcoming weekend - and it did just that.
Newton Faulkner followed on the Main Stage whose performance captivated me for its intricate complexity. Newton played predominantly by himself as a one-man band of vocals, acoustic guitar, kick drum, loop peddle/ sample pad and it was just outstanding. The multi tasking is made even more impressive when you’re stood in a crowd clapping out of time!
Over on the Arena Stage came one of the most exciting new pop prospects Ella Eyre – and the lion-haired songstress didn’t disappoint as she previewed her upcoming debut album ‘Deeper’. I’d like to use the term ‘pop diva’ but ‘diva’ seems to suggest arrogance and that is not Ella; she is endlessly confident, charismatic and energetic and her songs are just hits in the making. The 30-minute set flew by and included a dazzling (slightly grittier and rockier) reimagining of Rudimental’s anthem ‘Waiting All Night’ which Ella lent her vocals to last summer.
The afternoon from then on became a jump from stage to stage. V Festival special guests and genuine funk legends Chic ft. Nile Rodgers delivered phenomenal show seamlessly melding their own classics like ‘Everybody Dance’ and ‘Le Freak’ with an array of cover versions of Nile produced gems including Diana Ross’s ‘I’m Coming Out’, Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ and Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’.
The covers continued in style as Rizzle Kicks belted out Blur’s ‘Song 2’ and CeeLo Green sampled both Jackson 5 and Nirvana during his set. Special mention to CeeLo, a man many had been very excited to see perform, turned up on stage with just one other member of his band playing piano as the rest of his usual line-up were stranded in Budapest. Sadly, devoid of his band it strayed into karaoke territory and there was a distinct lack of Gnarls Barkley classics too.
The afternoon of covers continued with Rita Ora as she, and her tassel laden leopard jumpsuit, reworked Beyoncé’s ‘Drunk In Love’ and Coldplay’s ‘Magic’ as part of an enthralling mashup. The hits-packed set ended fittingly with her huge number one Calvin Harris-produced single 'I Will Never Let You Down'.
As night descended on the Main Stage, the sultry sounds of Paolo Nutini rang through Weston Park as warm up to The Killers. Paolo showcased his massive new album ‘Caustic Love’ with songs like ‘Better Man’ and ‘Iron Sky’ being set zeniths. However, usual crowd pleasers ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ and ‘Candy’ were reworked to swingy (and maybe even lacklustre) performances that you expected to kicked in but it just didn’t come. Still, it was great to see Paolo perform and it got the crowd suitable warmed in preparation for the headline act.
Then came The Killers. They exploded on to the stage to ‘Mr Brightside’ and ‘Spaceman’ and instantly confirmed their credentials as a brilliant festival headliner. The band blasted through their hits over a 90 minute set and even managed to squeeze in a covered of ‘I See A Dark Moon Rising’ and Rolling Stones ‘Ruby Tuesday’. The set even included a very special performance with Brandon Flowers on keys covering Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’ and drummer Ronnie Vanucci doing hilarious interpretive dance. The Las Vegas band took us into the encore with ‘Shot At The Night’ before ending on ‘When You Were Young’ to finish off a spectacular first day at the festival.
Morning broke on the Sunday to sunshine and a few heavy showers through the night and that pendulum of deluge and scorching weather continued to swing throughout the day. Despite the slightly irritating mixed weather, I was awoken by the sound of JT’s soundcheck and an excitement sparked within me.
Sunday saw a big clash for me. 2:30 saw Pixie Lott, Tom Odell, Foxes and Alan Carr over in the Comedy Tent all start within 5 minutes of each other. Ultimately, Tom Odell won the battle for me as I had missed at previous festivals over the last few years and thankfully, he didn’t disappoint. He brought the sunshine out over the Main Stage and so I lay on the grass and enjoyed the pumped up serenity of the set.
Prior to Tom Odell, I had spent the morning hearing punk rock veterans The Stranglers, underrated British band Starsailor and new kid on the block George Ezra bring their very divergent sounds to the festival; each were slow starters but proved they either once had it or the best is still to come in their own way.
The late afternoon took me to the MTV Stage where I saw the incredible John Newman. His band was all dressed sharply in monochrome with John to match, he danced incredibly well and his voice... wow! He’s cool and edgy and songs like ‘Out of My Head’ and ‘Love Me Again’ were just earth shatteringly good.
Kaiser Chiefs took to the Main Stage in the sunshine and whilst they performed hits like ‘I Predict A Riot’ and closed on ‘The Angry Mob’ it seemed that frontman Ricky Wilson preferred to spend the set running from to end to end the stage; it was just a little bizarre.
The rain came as Sophie Ellis-Bextor in Arena Stage as she illustrated her new, more band orientated style, in the songs from her new record ‘Wanderlust’ while, of course, playing the disco hits we all know and love.
Early evening saw Blondie make a triumphant V Festival appearance. As one of the ‘ones to watch’ on many lists last week, Debbie Harry and co. were in fine spirits playing their mega hits from the last 40 years including ‘Maria’ and ‘Call Me’.
Support to Justin Timberlake was Ed Sheeran who with only two (acclaimed) albums under his belt, I wondered if he had the ability and tunes to ‘be a support act’. The flame-haired singer, however, proved me completely wrong emphatically. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and loop board, he was thoroughly entertaining and consumed the stage with anthems like ‘Lego House’, ‘A-Team’ and ‘Sing’.
Headliner Justin Timberlake delivered a TKO to V Festival. Rising out of the floor (about five minutes early), JT swaggered and shimmed his way across the stage and through his set, which balance his older anthems with tracks from his spectacular 2013 double album ‘The 20/20 Experience’.
There was something incredibly American about the performance; it was a complete show. Everything was meticulous and so well thought out- it included infrequent intervals and medley style renditions of his classic pop hits. In the rare moments of silence, the crowd would erupt into chants for the singer who regularly seemed to stop and breathe in the electric atmosphere, which flew around Weston Park.
The set rocketed from ‘Pusher Love Girl’ into ‘Rock Your Body’ seduced the crowd with his liquid dance moves expertly choreographed routines with his backing dancers. Classics received rapturous applause with songs like ‘Cry Me A River’, ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ and ‘Suit & Tie’ being particular highlights.
As ‘Sexyback’ started to fade away and...Justin and his band (The Tennessee Kings) erupted into a guitar driven version of ‘Mirrors’ to mark the end of the set. As the song came to an end, JT dropped to his knees and looked out on the crowd and you didn’t need to the big screens to tell you that this man had been humbled and in return, he left it everything on the stage in that show.
V Festival pulled it out of the bag again this year; maybe it was more condensed this year but the performances were exemplary. With music at its core, V continues to prove itself as one of the standout pop festivals on the calendar.