Isle of Wight Festival headliners through the years

From 1968 to present day

Isle of Wight Festival headliners through the years
Author: Scott ColothanPublished 11th Jun 2020
Last updated 11th Jun 2020

With a history stretching back more than half-a-century, Isle of Wight Festival is firmly entrenched in music folklore.

Sadly, the event isn’t happening in 2020, however the good news is that Absolute Radio is hosting a virtual Isle of Wight Front Room Festival from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th June 2020 featuring some of the greatest performances in IOW’s distinguished history.

Legendary performances set to feature include David Bowie’s last ever UK live show in 2004, The Who’s second appearance at Isle of Wight Festival way back in 1970 and Fleetwood Mac’s extremely rare festival set in 2015.

Other acts confirmed for Isle of Wight Front Room Festival across the weekend include Queen + Adam Lambert, The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, R.E.M., Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Kasabian, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and many more. Check out the full line-up here:

Isle of Wight Front Room Festival

Sarah Champion, Ben Burrell, Danielle Perry, Ross Buchanan and Bush and Richie will be your hosts for the weekend, and they will be in our virtual backstage tent with all of these incredible performances.

It all kicks off at 7pm on Friday 12th June!

Listen to Absolute Radio

To celebrate our Isle of Wight Front Room Festival, we’ve taken a look at EVERY act that has headlined the festival over the decades. Check them out below!

Isle of Wight Festival headliners through the years:

Isle of Wight Festival 1968 – Jefferson Airplane

The inaugural Isle of Wight Festival was a one-day event that took place on 31st August 1968. Held at Ford Farm, near Godshill, the counterculture event was attended by an estimated 10,000 people and headlined by Jefferson Airplane with Arthur Brown, The Move, Smile, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Plastic Penny, Fairport Convention and The Pretty Things also on the bill.

Isle of Wight Festival 1969

The view of the Main Stage at the second Isle of Wight Festival in 1969.

Isle of Wight Festival 1969 – The Who

Held in the town of Wooton, Isle of Wight Festival expanded into a three-day extravaganza in 1969 and was attended by an estimate 150,000 people. After a free concert for season ticket holders on the Friday, The Who appeared on a Saturday 30th August line-up that boasted Moody Blues, Joe Cocker, Pretty Things, King Crimson and many more.

Isle of Wight Festival 1969 – Bob Dylan & The Band

Having been off the radar following a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1966, Bob Dylan shunned Woodstock to instead make his live comeback at Isle of Wight Festival. Flanked by The Band, Dylan's comeback has been described as one of the shows of the decade and helped cement Isle of Wight Festival's status as a legendary event. Tickets were just £2 for Sunday tickets.

Isle of Wight Festival 1970 – Chicago

According to the Guinness World Records, between 600,000 and 700,000 people attended Isle of Wight Festival 1970 at Afton Down. The seminal event took place over five days from 26th to 31st August with acts including Kris Kristofferson, The Groundhogs and Supertramp playing the opening two days. Chicago were arguably the biggest act on the Friday with Procol Harum, Family, and Taste also playing.

Isle of Wight Festival 1970 – The Doors

The Saturday at Isle of Wight Festival 1970 is firmly entrenched in rock and roll folklore with acts including Joni Mitchell, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Miles Davies and Emerson, Lake & Palmer playing. The Doors famously played in near darkness due to Jim Morrison not wanting any spotlights on him and the set was immortalised in the 2018 album 'Live at The Isle of Wight Festival 1970'. Morrison sadly died 11 months after The Doors' performance and it was their final show outside of the US.

Isle of Wight Festival 1970 – Jimi Hendrix

The Sunday at Isle of Wight Festival 1970 boasted a truly phenomenal line-up of Free, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens and many more. However, it was the legendary Jimi Hendrix who was the biggest name on the bill. Flanked by Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass, Hendrix played in the early hours of 31st August.

Rock Island 2002 – The Charlatans

32 years on, Isle of Wight Festival was revived as a one-day event at Seaclose Park on 3rd June 2002. Named Rock Island 2002, The Charlatans headlined with Robert Plant, Starsailor, Ash, Hundred Reasons, The Coral and The Bees all playing. (? Getty)

Isle of Wight Festival 2003 – Paul Weller

The second revived Isle of Wight Festival ditched the Rock Island moniker and was a two-day event on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th June 2003. The Modfather himself, Paul Weller, headlined the opening day bill with Starsailor, Iggy Pop, John Squire, The Cooper Temple Clause and The Thrills also heading to IOW. (? Getty)

Isle of Wight Festival 2003 – Bryan Adams

Canadian music icon Bryan Adams headlined a Sunday bill that also boasted Counting Crows, Hell is for Heroes, The Darkness and The Raveonettes. Weekend tickets were a bargain £50 and around 14,000 people attended. (? Getty)

Isle of Wight Festival 2004 – Stereophonics

Expanded into a three-day event, Welsh indie rock bastions Stereophonics were bestowed with the honour of headlining the opening night at Isle of Wight Festival 2004. Groove Armada, Super Furry Animals, 22-20's and The Duke Spirit also played the Friday. Nice hat, Kelly!

Isle of Wight Festival 2004 – The Who

34 years after their last appearance at Isle of Wight Festival, The Who made a heroic return to headline the Saturday at Isle of Wight Festival 2004. Manic Street Preachers, Jet and British Sea Powers were among the other performers.

Isle of Wight Festival 2004 – David Bowie

David Bowie's legendary headline slot on the Sunday night at Isle of Wight Festival 2004 ultimately proved to be his last ever UK show. Bowie played a career-spanning 20-song set that opened with 'Rebel Rebel' and came to an emphatic close with 'Ziggy Stardust'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2005 – Faithless

Attended by 50,000 people, Isle of Wight Festival 2005 opened with euphoria-inducing dance titans Faithless topping a Friday line-up that also featured Razorlight, Supergrass and Idlewild.

Isle of Wight Festival 2005 – Travis

Scottish indie chart-conquerors Travis headlined the Saturday at Isle of Wight Festival 2005. Other acts on the eclectic line-up were Roxy Music, Feeder, Goldie Lookin' Chain and Ray Davies.

Isle of Wight Festival 2005 – R.E.M.

Just like David Bowie the previous year, it was the mighty R.E.M. who stole the show at Isle of Wight Festival 2005 when they brought the event to an emphatic close on the Sunday night. Michael Stipe in particular was in energetic form and looked the part with his fetching blue facepaint. Other performers included Snow Patrol, Embrace, Starsailor and The Magic Numbers.

Isle of Wight Festival 2006 – The Prodigy

The fifth revived Isle of Wight Festival was headlined by The Prodigy on Friday 9th June. Placebo, Goldfrapp, The Rakes and Morning Runner also played the opening day.

Isle of Wight Festival 2006 – Foo Fighters

Keeping up the ante after the phenomenal Prodigy on the Friday, Foo Fighters played a storming set on the Saturday night. The line-up also featured Primal Scream, Editors and The Kooks.

Isle of Wight Festival 2006 – Coldplay

Touring their blockbuster 2005 album 'X&Y', Coldplay closed Isle of Wight Festival 2006 and memorably played Lou Reed's huge anthem 'Perfect Day' after Lou himself omitted it from his set earlier in the day. Richard Ashcroft, Maximo Park and Procol Harum also performed.

Isle of Wight Festival 2007 – Snow Patrol

Having played before R.E.M. two years earlier, Snow Patrol were rightfully promoted to headliners at Isle of Wight Festival 2007. Groove Armada were special guests with The Feeling and Echo and the Bunnymen also playing the Friday.

Isle of Wight Festival 2007 – Muse

Now a stadium conquering megaband, Teignmouth trio Muse made their first headline appearance at Isle of Wight Festival on the Saturday night. The excellent Saturday bill also featured Kasabian, Ash, Wolfmother and the late-great Amy Winehouse.

Isle of Wight Festival 2007 – The Rolling Stones

Rock n' roll heroes The Rolling Stones brought Isle of Wight Festival 2007 to a glorious close with a rapturously received set on the Sunday night. Tearing through seminal tracks including 'Brown Sugar', 'Jumpin Jack Flash' and 'Sympathy For The Devil', The Stones were joined by Paolo Nutini for a cover of Robert Johnson's 'Love in Vain' and the late-great Amy Winehouse for a version of The Temptations' 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2008 – Kaiser Chiefs

Leeds' prodigal sons Kaiser Chiefs headlined the Friday at the completely and utterly sold out Isle of Wight Festival 2008. The performance came a few months before they released their third album 'Off with Their Heads'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2008 – Sex Pistols

As part of their fleeting two-year reunion, punk legends the Sex Pistols headlined the Saturday at Isle of Wight Festival 2008. John Lydon infamously told the crowd when he took to the stage: "Tonight we will be singing songs from the book of Sod's law. Sing along or f***ing die." Delightful stuff.

Isle of Wight Festival 2008 – The Police

Alongside Saturday headliners the Sex Pistols, The Police also headlined Isle of Wight Festival while on a brief reunion tour. The English-American trio closed an indie-tastic Sunday bill featuring the likes of The Kooks, Starsailor, James and Feeder.

Isle of Wight Festival 2009 – The Prodigy

Having stormed Isle of Wight Festival three years earlier, Braintree rave-rock legends The Prodigy headlined for a second time in 2009, topping the bill on the Friday. Preceded by Basement Jaxx and Pendulum, the main stage was decidedly dance-tinged.

Isle of Wight Festival 2009 – Stereophonics

Preceding the release of their seventh album 'Keep Calm and Carry On', Welsh wonders Stereophonics headlined Isle of Wight Festival for a second time in 2009. Other acts that played on the Saturday included Razorlight, Maximo Park, Australian Pink Floyd and Ultravox.

Isle of Wight Festival 2009 – Neil Young

Bona fide rock legend Neil Young closed the 2009 event with a set that's gone down in Isle of Wight Festival folklore. The fabled set included classic tracks including 'Heart of Gold', 'Old Man' and 'Down by the River' plus a closing cover of The Beatles' 'A Day in the Life', which saw Young tear the strings from his guitar in homage to Jimi Hendrix.

Isle of Wight Festival 2010 – Jay-Z

In 2010, Jay-Z became the first hip-hop star to headline Isle of Wight Festival since its inception over four decades earlier. Featuring hits like '99 Problems', 'Empire State Of Mind' and 'Hard Knock Life', the Friday night set peaked when Kanye West made a surprise appearance and shared rapping duties on 'Run This Town'. Florence & The Machine and Doves also played that day.

Isle of Wight Festival 2010 – The Strokes

Taking to the stage after Blondie, New York City indie-rock icons The Strokes made their debut headline appearance at Isle of Wight Festival on Saturday 12th June 2010. Kicking off with 'New York City Cops', Julian Casablancas and the boys played a phenomenal set that was peppered with classics from their first three studio albums.

Isle of Wight Festival 2010 – Paul McCartney

Macca played a career-spanning 29 song set at Seaclose Park in 2010. Wings track 'Let Me Roll It' featured a snippet of 'Foxy Lady' in homage to Jimi Hendrix's fabled 1970 performance, and the set culminated with arguably the best encore ever – The Beatles classics 'Day Tripper', 'Get Back', 'Yesterday', 'Helter Skelter', 'Sgt. Pepper' and 'The End'. Wow.

Isle of Wight Festival 2011 – Kings of Leon

The Followills' debut headline performance at Isle of Wight Festival was part of their European tour in support of their fifth studio album 'Come Around Sundown'. A perfect mix of stadia-ready anthems and abrasive garage rock tunes from their early years, Kings of Leon absolutely nailed it. Kaiser Chiefs, The Courteeners and Band of Horses also appeared on the bill. (? PA Images)

Isle of Wight Festival 2011 – Foo Fighters

Having triumphed in 2006, the mighty Foo Fighters were invited back to headline Isle of Wight Festival for a second time in 2011. Proving why they're one of the finest live bands on the planet, Dave Grohl and co. never stepped off the gas for a moment throughout their barnstorming 17-song set.

Isle of Wight Festival 2011- Kasabian

Leicester's most famous export since Gary Lineker and a certain brand of crisps, Kasabian, closed Isle of Wight Festival 2011 with a faultless performance. Opening with 'Club Foot', the band dispatched all their bangers and even covered the Donna Summer classic 'I Feel Love' before emphatic closer 'Fire'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2012 – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

IOW Festival head honcho John Giddings dubbed the 2012 event the 'American Trilogy' as it was headlined by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers kicked things off in fine style on the Friday night in what was their first ever UK festival appearance. Sadly, it also proved to be their penultimate UK show ever as Tom Petty sadly passed away five years later in October 2017.

Isle of Wight Festival 2012 – Pearl Jam

Taking place during the wettest UK summer in a century, Isle of Wight Festival 2012 descended into a mud bath when a month's worth of rainfall fell in just one night. It was somewhat apt then that Pearl Jam covered The Beatles' 'Rain' five songs into their glorious set in a nod to the adverse weather. Eddie Vedder and co. also played Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros' 'Arms Aloft' in homage to the late-great Joe Strummer.

Isle of Wight Festival 2012 – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Truly one of the greatest live acts on the planet, The Boss and co. brought a very soggy Isle of Wight Festival 2012 to a triumphant close with a career-spanning 25-song set. Making the performance extra-special, 'Born In The USA' had its first live outing in the UK since 1996. Magical stuff.

Isle of Wight Festival 2013 – The Stone Roses

Having reformed for their homecoming Manchester Heaton Park gigs in the summer of 2012, The Stone Roses headlined Isle of Wight Festival on Friday 14th June 2013. The 90-minute, 15-song set was all killer and no filler and opened with 'I Wanna Be Adored' and closed with 'I Am The Resurrection'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2013 – The Killers

From the opening number 'Mr Brightside', The Killers never waned in magnificence throughout their Saturday night headline slot at Isle of Wight Festival 2013. The set included their trademark cover of Joy Division's 'Shadowplay' plus a version of 'I Think We're Alone Now' (made famous by Tiffany) and The Killers' only ever cover of The Beatles' 'When I'm Sixty-Four'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2013 – Bon Jovi

Arriving on site by helicopter like the true rock stars they are, Bon Jovi brought a sun-kissed Isle of Wight Festival 2013 to a spectacular close. The rip-roaring set featured a cover of John Fogerty's 'Rockin' All Over the World' and culminated with 'Livin' on a Prayer'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2014 – Biffy Clyro

Scottish rock titans Biffy Clyro headlined the Friday at Isle of Wight Festival 2014. Singer Simon Neil said following in the footsteps of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam was a "huge honour", and typically Biffy didn't disappoint with their monumental performance.

Isle of Wight Festival 2014 - Red Hot Chili Peppers

When he booked them, Isle of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings said Red Hot Chili Peppers "will be a highlight in the music history of the festival." He wasn't wrong. In fact, the only disappointment was that the set wasn't longer.

Isle of Wight Festival 2014 – Kings of Leon

Three years on from their last IOW triumph, the Followills returned to the hallowed turf of Seaclose Park to bring the weekend to an emphatic close. Kings of Leon appeared on a Sunday bill that also featured Suede, Travis and The Horrors.

Isle of Wight Festival 2015 – The Prodigy

Testament to their prowess in the live arena, dance-rock torchbearers The Prodigy headlined Isle of Wight for a third time in 2015. Having recently released their barnstorming sixth album 'The Day Is My Enemy', Keith Flint, Maxim and Liam Howlett served up a scintillating onslaught on the senses on the Friday night.

Isle of Wight Festival 2015 – Blur

Touring their eighth studio album 'The Magic Whip' – their first record in 12 years – Britpop heroes Blur were charged with headlining the Saturday night at Isle of Wight Festival 2015. Phil Daniels guested on a euphoric 'Parklife' and the 20-song set came to a sublime close with an encore of 'Stereotypes', 'Girls & Boys' and a spine-tingling 'The Universal'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2015 – Fleetwood Mac

Widely tipped to headline Glastonbury 2015, Isle of Wight head honcho John Giddings pulled a major coup when he booked Fleetwood Mac to headline the Sunday night. Their debut appearance at Isle of Wight Festival featured the returning Christine McVie back in their ranks and a setlist peppered with classics, from the opening 'The Chain' through to the fireworks finale of 'Don't Stop'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2016 – Faithless & Stereophonics

Co-headliners Stereophonics were undoubtedly the biggest act on the Main Stage bill on the Friday at IOW 2016, however Faithless were charged with closing proceedings under the veil of darkness at Seaclose Park. The gargantuan rave up featured all the Faithless classics including 'Insomnia', 'God Is A DJ' and closing anthem of togetherness 'We Come 1'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2016 – The Who

12 years on from their last IOW headline slot and 47 years on from inaugural Isle of Wight performance, rock legends The Who topped the Saturday night. Truly defying their years, Roger Daltrey was as ever the consummate frontman as Pete Townshend served up the iconic riffs and windmills. Performing essentially a greatest hits set, there were zeniths aplenty including 'My Generation', 'Pinball Wizard' and 'Baba O'Riley'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2016 – Queen + Adam Lambert

Fronted by the phenomenally talented and charismatic Adam Lambert – a man Brian May has insisted Freddie Mercury would approve of "big time" - Queen made their Isle of Wight Festival 2016 and ended an incredible weekend on a euphoric high. In front of over 50,000 people, they tore through Queen's biggest anthems in style. A set that's burned into our memory forever.

Isle of Wight Festival 2017 – David Guetta & Run-DMC

The Friday night at Isle of Wight Festival 2019 boasted eclectic co-headliners David Guetta & Run-DMC. Playing their first UK show in 16 years, hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC were on stage first and played classics including 'It's Like That' and 'Walk This Way'. French EDM megastar David Guetta took to the stage when darkness hit and he was flanked by an awe-inspiring light show and pyrotechnics as he brought the rave to Seaclose Park.

Isle of Wight Festival 2017 – Arcade Fire

Canadian indie-rock collective Arcade Fire were on truly dazzling form when they headlined the Saturday night at IOW 2017. Opening with a euphoric mass singalong of 'Wake Up', the entire 18-song set never waned in awe-inspiring grandeur.

Isle of Wight Festival 2017 – Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart brought Isle of Wight Festival 2017 to a close with a career-spanning set. Dressed for the occasion in a sparkly gold jacket and leopard print shoes, the septuagenarian music icon played a rapturously received set that melded solo and Face tracks with a spattering of covers. The night and entire weekend came to an arms-in-the-air close with 'Sailing'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2018 – Kasabian

Seven years on from their last IOW headline appearance, Kasabian topped the Friday night bill in rip-roaring style at the 50th anniversary Isle of Wight Festival in 2018. Alongside their cavalcade of certified Kasabian bangers, the band worked a few signature covers into their set; Groove Armada's 'At The River' and Fatboy Slim's 'Praise You'.

Isle of Wight Festival 2018 – Depeche Mode & Liam Gallagher

As double headliners go, they don't get much bigger than Depeche Mode and Liam Gallagher on the Saturday night. Liam treated fans to a set dominated by Oasis classics including a rousing 'Whatever' and a sublime 'Wonderwall' alongside his own solo tracks, while Depeche Mode delivered an electro-rock masterclass that culminated with the timeless 'Enjoy The Silence'. What a way to celebrate Isle of Wight's 50th anniversary!

Isle of Wight Festival 2018 – The Killers

Headlining Isle of Wight Festival for a second time, The Killers brought the 50th anniversary extravaganza to a glorious and emphatic close with a truly phenomenal set. True, final track 'Mr Brightside' was undoubtedly the set zenith, but their cover of Dire Straits' 'Romeo and Juliet' was pretty remarkable too.

Isle of Wight Festival 2019 – Noel Gallagher

A year after his younger brother Liam co-headlined, Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds to the Seaclose Park bill on the Friday night of Isle of Wight Festival 2019. The first half the Noel's triumphant headline performance was dominated by sublime solo tracks but the set truly peaked when Noel launched into Oasis' 'Wonderwall', 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out', 'Half the World Away' and 'Don't Look Back In Anger' before he closed with a cover of The Beatles' 'All You Need Is Love'. Stunning.

Isle of Wight Festival 2019 – George Ezra

On the back of a sensational past few years thanks to his triple Platinum second album 'Staying at Tamara's', George Ezra headlined Saturday night at Isle of Wight Festival 2019 in fine style thanks to his series of anthems including 'Shotgun', 'Budapest' and 'Blame It On Me'. However, it was dance god Fatboy Slim who was charged with bringing the Main Stage to a close with an epic rave-up.

Isle of Wight Festival 2019 – Biffy Clyro

Such was their sheer magnificence at IOW 2014, the mighty Biffy Clyro returned to Seaclose Park in 2019 to bring the weekend to pulsating close. Truly irresistible throughout, Simon, James and Ben served up a 23-song rock masterclass that proved a sensational climax to the weekend.

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