Updated: Aug 27
Rewind and let your (big) hair down after lockdown
Island Temple Meadows, Henley on Thames 20-22 August 2021
“Whatever you do Marty, don’t go back to 2020!” - the Back to the Future reference was, perhaps unsurprisingly, adorned on quite a few tee shirts over the weekend. After 18 months of no gigs and life Jim, but not as we know it; returning to the 80s where things were carefree, dayglow, and bonkers was a great place to start returning to normality.
While there was no social distancing in the crowd, and few people wearing masks, proof of being double jabbed or a PCR test was mandatory to gain entry to step back in time. Once inside it was as if Covid had never happened and we were transported to around 1986. As the 80s music blared from the speakers, it was as if a cloud had been lifted (a very wet weekend was scheduled but, thankfully the sun always shines on Henley) from a very depressing year. Even the compares for the weekend: The Doctor (from The Medics) and whoo Gary Davies are massive reminders of our favourite decade.
The well-mannered crowd relished in dressing up in everything from classic 80s, leg warmers, big hair, mullet wigs (shudder) any colour scheme possible, to Top Gun, Star Wars, Hi-De-Hi, and Rubik’s Cubes. The girls were there to have fun and the boys were looking for summertime love: there were several marriage proposals over the weekend and other couples could get hitched at the giant inflatable church!
As much as the 80s was all about the crazy styles and weird trends the music is what has stood the test of time.
Hue and Cry were still looking for Linda on Saturday afternoon – pretty sure we met her in the beer tent. Trevor Horn put on a superb set which included some classic 80s hits including’ Two Tribes’ and the epitome of 80s nostalgia, ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’.
The ageless Billy Ocean was a star in the 70s with ‘Love Really Hurts Without You,’ and had some even bigger hits in the 80s. ‘Get Out of My Dreams (and into my car)’ and his #1 hit ‘When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going). He’s one of those perennial performers that not only still sound as good as you remember but has a huge amount of energy.
Nik Kershaw may have been a Smash Hit’s pin up in the 80s, but his set including ‘Wide Boy’ , ‘Dancing Girls’ and ‘The One and Only’ proves just what an amazing songwriter he is too.
It was an emotional weekend for both audience and artists. John Parr chanted ‘freedom’ while Altered Images singer, Clare Grogan got teary-eyed performing fan favourites.
Hip hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash had us all in a groove in a mainstage DJ set.
The Communards and Bronski Beat frontman Jimmy Somerville was in full party mode as he gave us wall to wall hits ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ 'Why?’ in his headling set on Saturday.
On Sunday the weather was hot, hot, hot and everywhere you went there were inflatable pink flamingos! The glorious weather must have been from Katrina getting us ‘Walking on Sunshine’.
One of the most respected bassists of the last 40 years, Peter Hook and the Light put on a fierce Sunday afternoon set covering his New Order and Joy Division songs.
Synthpop legend, Marc Almond also relished being in front of a live crowd once more. He whetted our appetite for the Soft Cell’s shows later this year too. Marc performed tracks like ‘Tainted Love’ and ‘say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ from the iconic ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album which unbelievably celebrates its 40th anniversary this year!
Limahl’s set took us on a mini-tour of his career from 'Ooh To Be Ah' with Kadgeagoogoo to his solo hit from 1983 ‘Only for Love'.
Soul II Soul put on a tight set on Sunday, as did 80s icons Go West. Peter Cox and Richard Drummie are still a tour de force with Peter Cox still having one of the most identifiable voices from the 80s. ‘Faithful’ ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ were instant crowd sing-along favourites.
Bananarama may have sounded like a karaoke pastiche of themselves (that’s why we love the Bananas!), but that didn’t stop them and the crowd from having a blast in their set.
Wet Wet Wet headlined Sunday featuring new singer, Kevin Simm, who was only a child back in 80s. Marti Pellow’s shoes are big ones to fill, but Kevin has the voice to carry off tracks like ‘Angel Eyes’ and their #1 hit from the 90s ‘Love Is all Around’.
The Rewind Festival is one of the most fun and friendly events of the year. Going back in time to 2020 might be a definite no-no, but rewinding back to the 80s is always welcome.
Review by Cathy Clark
Photos by Gerry Driver
Crowd shots by Gerry and Cathy