At noon on the south coast, the relentless reddening sun beats down without remorse and sets the tone for Saturday’s all-embracing line up on Southsea seafront. It only takes a glance at one of the crumpled posters glooped to the metal fence outside to see that Victorious Festival is the pick ‘n’ mix of summer music jaunts, made up of everything from new blood on the cusp of bigness to retrospective acts in their twilight years.
The former is where today begins, over at the Castle Stage in the company of ascending Londoner Oscar who flits between Blur-flecked earwormers and dancehall-inspired jams during his superb short stint. The infectious highlights of his debut album ‘Cut and Paste’ captivate almost as much as his sonorous interludes and Mickey Mouse mac, with a buoyant ‘Beautiful Words’, a dreamy ‘Daffodil Days’ and a scintillating ‘Sometimes’ the set’s standouts.
Fellow Big Smoke-based band Teleman follow suit with unshakeable hooks aplenty, taking their two album strong back catalogue and whittling it down to its most immediate forays. The best of those are the immaculate pop gems that grace the start of sophomore full-length ‘Brilliant Sanity’: ‘Düsseldorf’, ‘Fall In Time’ and ‘Glory Hallelujah’ come one after the other, following the LP’s tracklist to a tee, and are as wondrously wonky as anything Joe Mount’s Metronomy have laid to tape over the last decade.
Masks, misrule and mass infatuation are the marks of Rat Boy‘s riotous live show in the mid-afternoon, which makes for a sharp change of pace. The Essex tearaway ravages the relaxed vibe with an anarchic introduction of hurled bottles and irreverence, snarling his way through the Jamie T-on-acid rock of opener ‘Move’ to a sea of jubilation. Along with his equally bratty band, who bounce like whac-a-moles throughout, the 20-year-old gives a performance of incessant energy – but it’s the Beastie Boys-ish ‘Get Over It’ that shows there’s more depth here than just an appetite for destruction.
As the burning ball in the sky begins to sink towards the horizon, five black-clad figures swarm below the spotlight and take things to another dimension with their otherworldly post-punk. The Horrors‘ spell at this year’s Victorious is one of musical mesmerism, buoyed by labyrinthine 80s synths, stratospheric guitar trickery and frontman Faris Badwan’s ominous croon. Throughout, his imposing six-foot-five frame prowls the stage like a goth reaper, visually at odds with the glorious technicolour noise of the band alongside him. “Thank you very much we’re Kings of Leon… I bet you wish we were though” he quips, after hallucinogenic rock marathon ‘Sea Within A Sea’. We don’t though. Because in euphoric widescreen anthem ‘Still Life’ and the brooding cinematic swirl of ‘I See You’, the Southend-born quintet now possess the sort of gargantuan tunes that Depeche Mode wish they’d made.
Next up are Editors, who’ve been somewhat unjustly dismissed and cast to the rock graveyard by a few of the globe’s more credible music curators. Tonight though, come nightfall, they render such qualms null and void with one of the most essential sets of the entire day. With intermittent fire cannons at their disposal, the Birmingham-based band fly through the finest points of their five album history with all-out commitment and frontman Tom Smith plays his part with such vigour you’d be excused for thinking the show was his last and his legacy was on the line. The huge moments come thick and fast: ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’ climbs to a rapturous conclusion, ‘The Racing Rats’ rouses with its doomsday guitar hook and ‘A Ton Of Love’ is delivered with such brawn by a mic stand-wielding Smith that only the coldest fish could stand unconsumed by its brilliant barked refrain. At their show’s peak, a magnificent ‘Munich’ throws us back to ’05, before the New Order-aping ‘Papillon’ is perfectly-executed and performed alongside more dazzling bursts of flames.
After a scamper over to the Common Stage, it’s time for Manic Street Preachers to grace us with their presence and unleash a career-spanning set below a silver pepper of the stars. Their headline stint is in honour of ‘Everything Must Go’‘s 20th anniversary and tonight they air its best cuts along with the jukebox songs that made early noughties collection ‘Forever Delayed’ so essential. Majestic opener ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ stokes the blaze thanks to James Dean Bradfield’s breathtaking licks, before their fourth album’s cathartic title track – astonishingly released a double decade ago – brings memories of their post-Richey Edwards reinvention flooding back and garners a giddy reaction. After a wondrous ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ at the slot’s halfway point, Bradfield then pays homage to the biggest influencers of the Welsh band’s early days, going off setlist to tease the field with the opening strains of The Clash‘s ‘Train in Vain’ as a result of a front row heckle. Impromptu and bespoke, it befits their status as a band of the people. Of course, curtain call ‘A Design For Life’ reaffirms this. The track that launched The Manics as a radio-primed trio in ’96 is the one that finds the people of Southsea in glorious voice. Bassist Nicky Wire – sporting his iconic look of dark shades and rock ‘n’ roll badge-emblazoned blazer – turns his mic on the crowd during its whopping chorus and they roar its words amid a downpour of kaleidoscopic confetti. It’s monumental – a moment to savour until next year’s festival and beyond.