The opening night performance by the Neville Staple Band got everyone in the festival with some classic tracks by the Specials including Gangsters, A Message to You Rudy, and a dub-tinged rendition of Ghost Town.
Friday headliners The Human League have a formidable back catalogue. Like being in the ring with Floyd Mayweather, the hits came thick and fast. Their set was a lot of fun, and the performance of their single Don’t You Want Me saw virtually every member of the audience singing the chorus at the top of their lungs – it was certainly one of the highlights of the festival.
Saturday was a somewhat sombre affair. Lovable Rogues played early afternoon, and were anything but lovable or roguish. After finding fame on one of those tedious talent shows they have nowadays, Lovable Rogues charmed a small crowd of teenage girls with laddish lyrics and the type of twee ukulele playing that you’ll find on your average insurance commercial. It was horrible, but the kids seemed to lap it up.
Former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson played a passionate set which was initially hampered by sound problems. Earlier this year, Johnson announced that he was dying of terminal cancer – Bingley Music Live was his last scheduled show. It was humbling to see a man so aware of his mortality just going out there and doing what he loves. By the closing notes of his encore performance of Bye Bye Johnny, there were very few dry eyes in the front rows.
Saturday headliners Primal Scream put on a lacklustre performance. A decade or so ago, the band had a reputation for their stunning live performances. But with their Bingley performance, it was difficult not to feel short-changed. Although their set was biased towards some of the tracks from their classic album Screamadelica, many of the songs felt tired and dreary, with much of the instrumentation coming from a backing track.
The Wonder Stuff provided a perfect Sunday afternoon treat. Again, there were a few sound problems early on, but frontman Miles Hunt was clearly at ease and the band seemed to have a lot of fun. It was clear from the quality of songs like Caught in My Shadow, Circle Square and Size of a Cow, that The Wonder Stuff should have been higher up on the bill.
Festival closers Chic featuring Nile Rodgers put on a truly excellent performance. Rodgers has written or produced countless classic records including David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Madonna’s Like a Virgin, which fit perfectly into the set. Like The Human League, the hits came thick and fast, but it was the disco classics by Chic such as Le Freak and Good Times that really got the crowd moving. It was an honour to be dancing only metres away from one of the greatest musical minds of the last 40 years and was the perfect close to a very good weekend.