Festival Watch – V 2016

Little Mix threaten to steal the show at Hylands Park’s 21st anniversary bash, but in the end no one can beat the star power of Rihanna

The vibe

On its 21st anniversary, V celebrates adulthood with its youngest, poppiest bill ever. Only Travis and Kaiser Chiefs remain as a nod to its indie/rock cradling and David Guetta is probably the oldest person on site, let alone on stage. Amazingly intimate, friendly and compact, though, even with 90,000 attendees.

The crowd

A mostly female, selfie-obsessed audience that has no patience for failed singles or “one from my new album”. More than once, fields empty mid-set as an act makes the schoolboy error of playing their biggest hit too early.

Best act

Sia at V Festival 2016, Hylands Park.
‘Sensational voice’: Sia at V Festival 2016, Hylands Park. Photograph: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Flesh-flashing Little Mix are a surprisingly huge draw, perhaps because of all the weekend’s acts they most closely resemble the V audience. In comparison, Sia’s face-covering wig and arty staging is a bit Lazy Gaga, but when her sensational voice belts out Diamonds there’s a visceral reaction as close to transcendence as is feasible in Essex. However, 25 minutes late and beginning with a string of incredibly slow songs, it’s Rihanna who confirms her position as the brightest and strangest star on the planet. A songbird marionette, worked into various aggressively angular poses, she delivers a mesmerising combination of trappy album tracks and gigantic hits, Caribbean grit and American showbiz, peaking with a throwaway take on Umbrella. After which, as if she demanded it, the sky gently fills with rain.

Little Mix at V Festival 2016, Hylands Park.
‘Surprisingly huge draw’: Little Mix at V Festival 2016, Hylands Park. Photograph: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

And the worst

Some stars can deliver the most mediocre performances while keeping their fans magnetised. Justin Bieber is not among them. Constantly referring to Chelmsford as London, Biebs slopes around the stage truculently, a bored boy-king briefly forced to slum it with us peasants to collect his regal stipend. Sure, poor sound and occasional drizzle aren’t his≈fault, but lacklustre dancing and a shameful mix of taped and live vocals is. The set reaches a nadir when he stares blankly across the adoring faces and starts to list the food outlets he can see from the stage. The saddest thing is, when he picks up a guitar and sings acoustic versions of Cold Water and Love Yourself, he is startlingly brilliant.

Justin Bieber at V Festival 2016, Hylands Park.
‘Bored boy-king’: Justin Bieber at V Festival 2016, Hylands Park. Photograph: Ian West/PA

Best discovery

Karate world champion and Essex homecomer Anne-Marie channels Adele at Fabric during her all-too-short Street Stage set on Saturday.

Best dressed

Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander’s backless red number has the prize right up until the moment that Rihanna struts out on stage in her breathtaking black-and-white gladiator fetish outfit.

Overheard

“Find your mum - I’m gonna get a beer” sums it up.

Best tweet

Freelance journalist Kate Solomon:

Contributor

Damien Morris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Justin Bieber and Rihanna to headline V Festival 2016
As well as Sia, David Guetta and Bastille, Bieber makes his first proper headline appearance at British festival, while Rihanna returns after five years

Guardian music

22, Feb, 2016 @9:09 AM

Article image
V festival review: generic YouTube hits and Uncle Rick Astley
Justin Bieber mumbles motivational quotes, Bastille enjoy a singalong and Sia sparkles on Diamonds

Caroline Sullivan

21, Aug, 2016 @2:20 PM

Article image
Festival watch: Latitude – review
Christine and the Queens, Grimes and New Order were the high points of the festival season’s most middle-class affair

Kathryn Bromwich

24, Jul, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Festivals 2016: the essential A-Z
Adele or Ice Cube? Reading or Wireless? Our writers give you the heads-up on what to look out for this year

Kathryn Bromwich, Stuart Dredge, Priya Elan, Killian Fox, Sam Richards, Jude Rogers

13, Mar, 2016 @9:47 AM

Article image
V festival 2014 review – not quite food for the soul, but palatable all the same
Despite a mainstream menu, Justin Timberlake and company eventually won over even the most laddish sceptics, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

18, Aug, 2014 @1:28 PM

Article image
Festival watch – Field Day 2016
PJ Harvey, DJ Koze and John Grant were among an array of performers who shrugged off the gloomy weather to shine in east London’s Victoria Park

Kathryn Bromwich

19, Jun, 2016 @7:59 AM

Article image
Festival watch: BoomTown – review
Damian Marley’s affecting tribute to his father stole the show in a troubled weekend

Isa Jaward

21, Aug, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Festival watch – Love Supreme
Lianne La Havas, St Germain, Kamasi Washington and Kelis delighted jazz lovers in camping chairs

Isa Jaward

10, Jul, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
Sia: This Is Acting review – mass-appeal pop with a manic edge
Play spot the client as Sia takes 12 unwanted songs she wrote for A-listers and makes them her own

Kitty Empire

31, Jan, 2016 @10:30 AM

Article image
Festival watch: Festival No 6 2016 review
Extreme weather threatened to become the headline act but a wonderful set from Super Furry Animals and a carnival spirit saved the weekend

Ally Carnwath

11, Sep, 2016 @6:59 AM