Victorious Festival 2023 scales new heights at Southsea Common
Sea breezes tend to get chilly every now and then, especially this unpredictable summer, but Victorious Festival kept temperatures high last weekend with a thrilling lineup, culminating in the long-awaited return of Mumford & Sons.
The event began on Friday with Jake Bugg, The Charlatans, Blossoms and Jamiroquai. Saturday afternoon on the Common Stage warmed up with an electrifying rock-synth set by Pale Waves, kicking off with a powerful and magnetic Lies. Heather Baron-Gracie pounced on the guitar moving into Fall to Pieces and She’s My Religion. Jealousy sealed the send-off to confirm this is a quartet to keep an eye on. This year’s programme guaranteed a cheery mix of genres, swinging from rock to Britpop and dance. The Divine Comedy opened on Absent Friends, Neil Hannon holding a glass of wine. At the Indie Disco brought a nostalgic flow, which was soon overturned by I’m Becoming More Like Alfie that landed on a sleek guitar conclusion.
The Castle Stage hosted McFly for an uplifting secret set, followed by Inspirational Carpets, Shame and The Cribs.
With a contagious and expansive presence, Kate Nash swayed her voluminous red mane back and forth on the Common Stage for a fun sequence whose rhythm was hard to resist. Banging the drums on Life in Pink, in Dickheads her one-to-one exchanges with festival goers were a welcome close-up. The mic became a roving one for Mariella before an ovation rose from the nearly full-up field on Foundations. Following her, Belle and Sebastian delivered some good oldies, catchy and affectionate, including Nobody’s Empire and She’s Losing It.
Energy soared to its highest with the pounding of guitar riffs and Ricky Wilson’s raspy voice in Kaiser Chiefs’ Na Na Na Na Naa. The ground started rumbling with How 2 Dance and I Love You Less and Less, and the set peaked with a potent Ruby: a classic the sun will never go down on. The anger and intensity seemed to get the better of the five-piece, the frontman even climbing on one of the supporting structures on the right-hand side of the stage for I Predict a Riot and The Angry Mob. A game of strobe lights and runes took over for the entrance of Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno in a bright purple coat, cheering the crowd on with an explosive Club Foot. Underdog, You’re in Love with a Psycho and a stomping Shoot the Runner made for a smashing combination, though that soon rolled into a more electro/dance register, already foreseen in the interception of covers in outros such as Daft Punk’s One More Time. It left few questions about the direction they are driving their rock.
On Sunday, the clouds cleared, prepping the sky for the grand finale. Channelling a young Avril Lavigne but much heavier on pop lyrics and tunes, Dylan’s dynamic performance involved a cover of Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City (her more rebellious soul coming out in the guitar solo), Someone Else and Liar Liar (written with Dan Campbell Smith of Bastille). Sea Girls (sporting neat jeans) pretty literally embraced the enthusiasm of the Common Stage’s attendees with Damage Done, Ready for More and Hometown. On the other side of the field, The Enemy’s Had Enough raised magniloquent choruses and bouncing feet that didn’t stop for We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, Be Somebody and No Time for Tears. “We won’t stop for chatting – we’d rather get straight into playing and see how many tunes we can give you before they kick us out, alright?” Tom Clarke announced before moving on, no answer awaited, hitting the keys. And the time was definitely not enough for the fans, as they drew out the ending of This Song Is About You, reclaiming the group back at their mics for a heartfelt a cappella encore. Ben Howard paced the space, gathering a cheering audience, followed by The Vaccines.
Ellie Goulding was as charismatic as ever: with flurries of confetti and glitter, the singer’s ethereal voice glided through for a hyped atmosphere on Cure for Love, Love Me Like You Do and Burn.
The day’s headliner started with fireworks: Mumford & Sons performed two incredible songs, Babel and Little Red Lion, majestically led by folk-infused upright bass arrangements. Passing through the more emotional Lover of Light, with Marcus picking up the drumsticks, and Believe, raising goosebumps along the audience’s phone lights, the band dived with gusto into ballad Dust Bowl Dance. Holland Road and Snake Eyes, from the band’s earlier output, kept an incredible connection with the festival goers before the finishing stroke of grandiose rock-folk and pyrotechnics in I Will Wait.
What in previous years may have looked like almost temporary spaces for extra shows were enlarged in this edition of Victorious Festival, with proper tents and broader schedules. Fully realised sections for World Music, Acoustic, Beats & Swing, Comedy, a People’s Lounge with workshops throughout the day, and more were arranged in various corners of the map. With increasing and well-deserved attraction, the spectacle is set to scale new heights.
Photos: Virginie Viche
Victorious Festival was on from 25th until 27th August 2023. For further information and future events visit the festival’s website here.