Jon Bye

16:04 14th June 2011

It's a bizarre start to a festival when you're having to wait for the local school's exams for the main music to start. This is just one of the many quirks that will be discovered about the Isle of Wight over the weekend. Yet the major one becomes apparent straight away: line up placement.

Big Country, starting at 4pm in the afternoon, are an indifferent 80s act; a cross between Iron Maiden and a prog rock spoof that takes itself seriously. Barely engaging, they hardly have the proper pedigree to pull off the slot and prove to be the first of several mind-boggling staging decisions. Older fans may have revel at the sight of these old timers strutting their stuff but it leaves the rest of the festival goers wondering what they've put themselves in for.

We Are Scientists do a far better job of getting things rolling. Typically good humoured and lively, the adequately fill the large main stage despite only being a three piece. Despite having gone a little off the radar of recent, even their less familiar new material sounds ace, while the crashing 'Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt' gives the crowd the first proper opportunity to dance.

Over to the Big Top stage, and Imelda May brings her idiosyncratic jazz-come-rock-a-billy antics just as the rain sets in. Still, its not the weather which packs the tent out; her incredibly powerful voice effortlessly smashes the usual festival sound problems. Her most recent album Mayhem has now been out long enough for people to get a good sense of her material and 'Sneaky freak' and 'Johnny got a boom boom' roll out in excellent style, helped by her superbly talented band. A final cover of 'Tainted Love' in the style that only May can do is a delight. It's maybe late in the day to jump on the Imelda May band wagon but after this performance I'm sure many will feel themselves converted.

The return of the Kaiser Chiefs is met with warm confusion; where have they been, didn't they quit and did they do a second album are all questions that get banded about. More than that, it seems they have even produced a third album, The Future is Medieval, material from which they make the  mistake of starting with. They quickly correct this slip-up with 'Everyday I love you less and less' and drunks' favourite 'Ruby'. As great as it is to here these old classics, there's a definite sense that their tunes belong to another age; the band's singing regional matter-of-fact songs have all gone by the wayside recently and even with the satirical might of 'Angry Mob' it doesn't feel like the Kaisers are winning the fight against the rain.

This is a contest that Kings of Leon don't even have to contend in. With the large screens switched off fir the initial off, there's something of a crush as people attempt to get closer to these rock legends in waiting. And despite only having four albums they seem to have endlessly good repertoire; Taper Jean Girl, Kick the bucket, Fans and Charmer all rock out representing their older material while Radioactive brings things right up to date.

Characteristically low on engagement, this is a band that very much lets the music do the talking. A middle section featuring a  few numb numbers is polished up by more classics such as Molly's Chamber and On call before going on to the tracks that really made them famous; 'Sex on Fire' and use somebody. Ending with a huge array of fireworks its an excellent start to the weekend.

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