Guilfest is the UK’s premier family friendly festival. In catering for all ages the lineup tends to look a little varied, not fully committed to dad rock in the form of Bryan Ferry, Buzzcocks and Gary Numan and not buying completely into the a younger pop festival with performances from Olly Murs and Cher Lloyd. The third name in this list would have been Tulisa, however she was to ill to perform.
Friday leant a lot closer to the vintage camp, with minor ex members of The Beautiful South and Dire Straits performing their old hits as The South and The Straits respectively. These sets were good and Walk Of Life was great festival tune. Heaven 17 did a great electropop set, with closing it with classic Temptation
Jools Holland and his incredibly talented band put in a virutosic, groovy performance, but my enjoyment of this was cut short when I saw there was a seminal Manchester punk band playing a packed out sweaty tent. Buzzcocks were thoroughly impressive. ABC were smart, classy and incredible well polished working through their hits from the eighties.
Saturday was far more popular and current, and it’s only fitting that the crowd today was much younger. It is a shame that Tulisa was not well enough to perform at the festival, despite being caught by paparazzi partying for her Birthday in Ibiza. For the younger crowd she was arguably the biggest draw, and when the announcement was made five minutes before Tulisa was supposed to take to the stage, the audience was clearly gutted.
Luckily though, she was replaced with a second performance by Take Fat, the overweight tribute to Take That. Providing some serious light (or should that be heavy) entertainment. The boys, including Mark Growing and Gary Lardo, went through all the boy bands classics and the modern hits. Their show was absolutely hilarious, mid way through the set the band had to got hungry and asked for the crowd to throw food onto the stage. One of the lasting images of Guilfest will be Blobbie Williams eating a bag of skips while Howard McDonalds sang ‘Never Forget’.
More musical comedy came in the form of Tim Minchin, who drew a large crowd to the second the stage and was very funny and entertaining, especially when lightly mocking the ‘uncritical’ group of teenage girls gathered at the front who were cheering after every line he spoke. Despite being oddly sandwiched between Cher Lloyd and the errant Tulisa, reggae legend Jimmy Cliff played a very strong set on the Main Stage, his acapella version of Rivers Of Babylon being a highlight. Cher Lloyd performed admirably, as she was strutted around the stage with the endearing swagger and attitude we all remember and love from her time on X Factor.
The award for best act on Saturday however does have to go to Nouvelle Vague, who’s sexy, French, bossanova covers of New Wave songs were, if a little niche, fantastic. Fronted by, you guessed it, two sexy French brunettes, they reeled of a string of classics like ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Guns Of Brixton’ before finishing on a fantastically haunting cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.
Headliner Olly Murs closed the Main Stage on Saturday night, which barring his well documented fall down the stairs, was a near flawless performance. Olly provided a lot of bouncy pop fun and his affable charisma carried the set. ‘Thinking Of Me’ was an early crowd pleaser and it was very brave of Murs to do not one but two covers of Madness (who are Guilfest regulars). Another brave choice of artist to tribute to was Stevie Wonder, the afformentioned fall took place during the medley of his songs. Olly was a very strong headliner, who delivered on the expectations of his hardcore fans and impressed those who might have otherwise written him off.
The sun actually came out on Sunday, which after two days of grey clouds, rain and lots of mud, was a welcome change. It was too late for those of us who were camping, but the sun lifted the festival’s mood was lifted considerably when it could have been a very dull and depressing Sunday morning. The local Rock Choir opened the stage with choral versions of Hard Rock classics like The Bee Gees ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’. Following this was an appearance from touring show, Elvis and Friends who played just about every great song from the fifties that anyone can remember. Alvin Stardust changed the tone a little as he played a strong set of Glam Rock stompers.
Stooshe’s set was unique, but you have to wonder if they might have drawn a bigger crowd if they’d have been on stage on Saturday. Hit ‘Love Me’ went down well however, as did a cover of TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’, who are clearly a big influence on the band. Soul legend Candi Staton entertained the crowd with hits like ‘Young Hearts, Run Free’ and ‘You Got The Love’. Her voice is simply incredible live, as were the stories of showbusiness, divas and glamour that she told between songs.
Chic and Nile Rodgers were a funky bonus to a sunny Sunday afternoon, who had a huge party going on on the Main Stage. I’d be surprised if anyone didn’t drive home on Sunday night without ‘Le Freak’ playing over and over in their heads.
Sunday’s closing act Bryan Ferry was simply majestic. One of the coolest performers I have ever seen on stage, Bryan was suave, suited and sexy. As if one legend wasn’t enough, backing him up was former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. It was one of the best festival sets I’ve ever seen, with epic songs such as ‘Like A Hurricane’ being matched by the fun pop of ‘Let’s Stick Together’. The production was immense, even glossy records like ‘More Than This’ and ‘Avalon’ sounded flawless, Ferry’s voice has lost none of it’s unique tone or texture. His charisma was so strong that he could even afford to drop to the back of the stage and play the piano and still be the most captivating performer. Closing the festival with the epic ‘Jealous Guy’ and a rocking version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ Ferry’s performance was memorable and unique, and like the festival itself, both classic and modern.