New stars shine beside The Specials at Splendour 2019: review

Splendour 2019 at Wollaton Hall
Splendour 2019 at Wollaton Hall

This year’s Splendour festival drew its largest crowd so far – 25,000 paying punters plus 1,000 liggers, according to the compere – and saw every inch of Wollaton Hall packed with folding chairs.

Every other person seemed to be the sporting the fabulous glittery (and biodegradable!) designs of Jayface, and most of them stayed glued to the attractions on the big stages.

Esther Van Leuven

Esther Van Leuven

If they did, they missed out on some excellent acts – notably Esther Van Leuven, whose short, impassioned set, backed by keyboard and cello, promises great things for the future.

On the Confetti stage, Irish pop-rockers Ash played up a storm, bashing out a string of catchy hits on their flying V that brought a daft, nostalgic grin to my cynical mug.

There was more nostalgia on show when The Specials took to the main stage, playing crowd-pleasing favourites (except “Ghost Town” for some odd reason) beside more recent numbers, as well as an eerily beautiful version of Fun Boy Three’s “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)”.

In contrast to his upbeat and chatty performance in 2015, lead singer Terry Hall stayed shtum, except for a cryptic remark about Jeremy Corbyn, and cut rather glum a figure. But this didn't stop the rude boys and girls in the crowd from having a ball.

The stage was decorated with CND logos and protest placards, recalling the issues that divided England in the 1980s, and bringing to mind parallels with today.

The undoubted highlight was a guest appearance by Saffiyah Khan, the brave woman who stood up to the EDL in a Specials T-shirt.

The Manic Street Preachers had an extremely tough act to follow, and I’m a bit disappointed to say they fell short.

Some gems stood out – a streamlined version of “Motorcycle Emptiness”, a thrilling “You Love Us” and a raucous cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – but for the most part, their choice of tunes seemed a bit uninspired after The Specials. Nonetheless, they were well-received by a happy and sun-warmed crowd.