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Review: Common People 2018

Common People returned to Southampton for the fourth year running, attracting a 20,000 strong crowd over the final bank holiday weekend in May.

Thanks to Rob da Bank and Strong Island I found myself pulling out my favourite festival gear and heading to Southampton Common to watch the diverse line up including James, Lily Allen and The Jacksons.

It’s one of the first festivals of the year and, for me, it marks the beginning of summer. This year, the British weather was not true to form, the sun shone all weekend and festival goers managed to avoid the storm that hit late Saturday night.

Keeping me company across the weekend was Kim, my Mum. SNAP! was on her bucket list of bands to see and she’s always had a keen eye for spotting bands and celebrities. A useful ally when you’ve got a backstage pass.

Batala at Common People 2018

The Great Solent Gin Festival is the latest addition to the festival and it was our first stop after strolling through the gates. With 51 different gins to choose from, it was tough narrowing the decision down. We opted to try the Wight Mermaids Gin and the HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin. Both are made locally at the Isle of Wight Distillery and well worth trying.

The Mermaid gin was crisp, the Victory gin smooth and both were topped off with Schweppes 1783 tonic  – delicious!

While sipping gin we looked around the foodie area and I was glad to see firm favourites like The Tenth Hole, Churros Bros and Meat Cure among the many vendors. But, it was also good to see a new artisan market with local produce too.

We then walked round and caught the end of the FooR, who were ‘bringing the energy’ as they remixed their own tracks with club classics and current hits. Avicii, Stormzy and the White Stripes had the crowd up and dancing in no time.

The Mermaid gin was crisp, the Victory gin smooth and both were topped off with Schweppes 1783 tonic  – delicious!

Gin Festival at Common People. Taken by Mark Piggott.
The Sherlocks at Common People. Taken by Mark Piggott.

While waiting for the next act, we headed backstage to check times and my Mum pointed out that we were stood next to Sparks. The brothers, Ron and Russell Mael, had just arrived and were heading into their dressing room. I told you she had a hawk eye!

Next up on the main stage, The Sherlocks brought the northern indie magic. Fans rushed down to the stage as they belted out ‘Chasing Shadows’ and ‘Will You Be There?’ from their acclaimed debut album ‘Live for the Moment’ and new song ‘Magic Man’.

Half way through The Sherlocks paid tribute to The Joiners, a local live music venue, that is celebrating its 50th anniversary. They have a close connection to the venue, it’s where they performed their first ever gig in the south. These rising indie stars also recently supported, Brit pop legend, Liam Gallagher on a string of European dates and are tipped for big things.

Shortly after the lads leave the stage, it’s almost as if there’s a mass changing of the guard. All of a sudden the audience shifts. The crowds of glitter, crop tops and elaborate braids quickly move away and another generation line up at the barrier waiting for Sparks to appear.

Half way through The Sherlocks paid tribute to The Joiners, a local live music venue, that is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

All Saints at Common People. Taken by Will Bailey.

Sparks were a highlight of the weekend for several reasons. The band came on to the stage in matching baby pink denim jackets, Ron with a baby pink tie sits down at his keyboard and Russell in a similar colour military style blazer. Russell’s voice is immediately recognisable and given that he’s in his 70s he’s still absolutely slaying the vocals.

With a glint in his eye and wry smile he concludes 2017 hit ‘Missionary Position’ by saying “I can see there are a lot of fans of the missionary position here today…or not!”

For their big finale, Ron, who famously sits still and pulls one facial expression takes centre stage. He undid his tie, threw it over his shoulder, counted to three and then broke into a stiff armed, spotty dog style dance. The fans erupted into a massive cheer and Sparks went straight into ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’ to close the set.

The 90s cargo pants may be gone but the classic girl band dance moves have not. All Saints are next to take to the stage with Shaznay opening the vocals on ‘I Know Where It’s At’.

All Saints are a real crowd pleaser and are polished in an understated way. They made their way through their back catalogue of pop hits including ‘Black Coffee’, ‘Never Ever’ and ‘Pure Shores’. To keep things fresh they put a new spin on ‘Lady Marmalade’ by mashing it up with Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It’. A couple of other tracks get the same treatment including ‘Under the Bridge’ which is combined with ‘All Night Long’ by the Mary Jane Girls.

All Saints at Common People. Taken by Will Bailey.

Now James isn’t really my kind of music but, he really pulled in the fans, that main arena was packed out and the people we were stood next to knew every word to every song. Sporting flared jeans and a furry brown hooded jacket lead singer Tim Booth opened with a loaded political number full of references to Trump and Russia.

The tracks were picked carefully and were swiftly followed by the hit ‘Better Than That’. We see what you did there James! Political references were littered throughout James’ set and the latest album, out in August, is a reaction to the band living in America at the moment. Undoubtedly it will be set of thought provoking songs.

Tim left the stage and climbed the barrier singing directly into the audience and his fans were going crazy. A slip turns into crowd surfing while he carried on singing, Tim seemed to take it all in his stride. James famously never plays ‘Sit Down’ anymore so when Tim announced that he would close the set with it, you can imagine the cheer from the crowd and the sing-a-long that followed.

Has something changed at festivals this year? So far, it’s all seemed to be about the sing-a-long. The fans want to get involved and they want the hits.

James at Common People 2018. Taken by Will Bailey.

“Don’t worry it’s going to be all killer, no filler,” said Lily Allen when she took to the stage as the headline act. Lily emerged onto the stage in a white ethereal floor length dress, a long-sleeved tie-dye t-shirt, her signature block fringe and two large pink and blonde braids streaked with UV.

She effortlessly sang classic hits ‘Smile’, ‘Littlest Things’ and ‘LDN’ and also introduced fans to new songs including ‘My One’, ‘Lost My Mind’, ‘Apples’ and ‘Trigger Bang’. These new songs address big issues like mental health, alcoholism and sex. A return to form for the pop star who’s never shied away from singing about her personal life. ‘LDN’ had a huge response from the crowd, prompting a mass sing-a-long and in-between songs she spent time interacting with the crowd. She closed the set with ‘It’s not fair’ and brought the house down.

It’s a welcome come back for the pop songstress and it was a cracking end to the first day of Common People.

It’s a welcome come back for the pop songstress and it was a cracking end to the first day of Common People.

Lily Allen at Common People. Taken by Finger Print Media
Lily Allen at Common People. Taken by Will Bailey

Sunday started with SNAP! Lead singer Penny’s powerful voice got fans dancing to ‘I’ve Got The Power’ and ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’ while DJ Goldirocks supported her on the decks.

After a good dance to those club classics I’m pretty sure I bumped into Rob da Bank backstage. I really wanted to say thanks for bringing a large live music event back to Southampton. But, not knowing if it was him I chickened out and headed back into the arena. Opportunity missed!

Dancing their way on to the main stage next was The Cuban Brothers with their unique blend of humour, latin beats and breakdancing. Increasing the peace with love, laughs and songs like ‘I Hate Hate’, was exactly what was needed to get the crowd going on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Highlights included an impressive flip off the very tall stage and a tribute to Charles Bradley, who is one of my all time favourite musicians and sadly passed away last year. Google him if you’ve not heard his tunes – he’s incredible!

The brothers did not disappoint. By the end of their set the arena was packed and most people were howling with laughter. The Cuban Brothers were easily one of my favourite acts of the entire weekend – they are a must see!

Jaguar Skills kept the party atmosphere going with a ninja mega mix of tracks including Linkin Park, Daft Punk, DMX, Candi Staton and Madness. I’ve seen Jaguar Skills many times, he’s an incredibly popular DJ and always get his songs and mixes spot on.

The sing-a-long element of Saturday continued through to Sunday when Boney M took to the stage with ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’, ‘Rasputin’ and ‘Daddy Cool’. Like James, this really isn’t my thing but, so many people at the festival enjoyed every minute of their set.

Boney M were extremely popular with the crowd as were Prince’s band, The Nu Power Generation. Personally, for me, it lacked the Prince star quality and stage presence. However, I think I’m in the minority with my opinion as the audience sang along to every hit and couldn’t get enough of the talented musicians. ‘Kiss’, ‘Nothing Compares To You’ and ‘1999’ were fan favourites and had everyone up and dancing.

Headliners, The Jacksons are pop royalty and Motown legends and we were lucky to have them in Southampton. The crowd roared as they took to the stage in their glittery military uniforms launching into ‘Can You Feel It’ and doing their signature dance moves. Hit after hit including ‘Blame It On The Boogie’, ‘Rock With You’ and ‘ABC’ was sung with images of Michael Jackson and the brothers together in the background.

During the interlude video footage of family members and Berry Gordon, founder of Motown Records, appeared on the stage screen. They shared emotional memories of The Jacksons in their youth and a touching tribute to Michael. The Jacksons took a moment and then got the crowd going again with some tracks from Tito followed by their hit record ‘Gonna Be Starting Something’. The final song was an extended version of The Jackson 5’s song ‘Dance and Shout’. It was the perfect end to the set and an incredible bank holiday weekend full of live music.


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