With Eminem, Rihanna, Ellie Goulding

When it comes to festivals, the line-up doesn’t come more pic ‘n’ mix than Virgin Media’s V Festival. And while V (generally) opts for commercial acts, when it comes to genres, the bill is about as randomly diverse as a night bus stop in central London.

Over the weekend the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Hanson (Yep, those guys are still around), N-Dubz, Pendulum and Tinie Tempah all graced the stages at Highland Park and Chelmsford for the annual late summer festival. And while there’s something in there for everyone, this trait has its cons, as well as pros.

Arctic Monkeys were Chelmsford’s Saturday headliners and injected some much needed rock ‘n’ roll to the weekend. And while the weather was unpredictable and rainy the previous day, Sunday is the definition of summer, as the sun beams down in Essex.

Spread out over four different locations across the park, acts of all genres take to the stage. Ellie Goulding is an early crowd pleaser. Songs such as Starry Eyed set the tone and the petite singer proves a hit with revellers.

In general scheduling and timetables clash heavily, meaning you have to choose between many top acts. A large amount of audiences at the Script’s set seem to be Rihanna fans who turned up early to the get a good spot for the Bajan stars set.

Although it provides a wide range of music, V Festival generally caters to pop fans and Rihanna’s appointment is a fine and fitting one. Dressed in a pair of the tiniest black leather hot pants, fishnets and a tied up denim shirt, the 23-year-old sizzles as she churns out hit after hit of her chart-topping songs. While her vocals are not the strongest, the likes of Disturbia, S&M and Rude Boy have the crowd joyously singing along and waving their hands. A rendition of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song is well received, but it’s the finale performance of Umbrella that garners the biggest applause and prompts many revellers to erm... get out their umbrellas.

Rihanna’s set is a perfect warm up for the main man Eminem, who closes the show with an impressive 90 minute performance of songs from a career that spans over a decade. The Detroit MC was reportedly paid £2 million for his two day’s at V Festival and while I can’t say it was a £2 million worthy performance, Marshal Mathers rarely comes over to the UK, so it was a rare opportunity for fans to get a glimpse of arguably the best rapper of our generation.

Dressed in his trademark casual attire, Em’s set gets off to a slow start, but quickly picks up paste. Joined by his hype man, early tracks The Way I Am and My Name Is have the crowd amped up, but recent tracks such as Not Afraid and No Love from 2010’s Recovery also receive an equal level of applause. When Em brings out D12 for their hits Purple Pills and Fight Music, a moment of nostalgia kicks in and for a second I felt as though I was back in Secondary school.

At 38-year-old Eminem’s wild hell raising days are well and truly behind him (there were no chainsaws or cursing of other acts), but his stage presence was still very much in tact and 13 years down the line he’s still one of front runners in contemporary music.

The down point of the set was Em’s mic being too low, which meant at times his vocals were drowned out. Also the US star constantly referred to the crowd as ‘London, UK’ – someone clearly forgot to tell him we were in Essex. But even a technical fault and a slight geographical error wasn’t enough to ruin this memorable performance. Stan was a magical moment and reminder of Eminem at his very best. When Rihanna came back out on stage for the pair’s duet Love The Way You Lie, the crowd screamed with glee. Closing song Lose Yourself was a general crowd favourite and a fitting encore to an impressive show.

Although the Eminem of today’s live show is not quite on the same level of his performances of the past, fans were treated to something quite special and it’s clear to see just why Rolling Stone magazine recently named him the “King of Hip-hop.”

Words by Vanessa Laker
Photos by Al De Perez

View our photo galleries from V Festival 2011:
Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Kaiser Chiefs & more
Ellie Goulding, The Wombats, N-Dubz & more


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