Kicking off on Friday (18th August) with a pre-party, Rewind South 2023 proved a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, as revellers turned out in their thousands in era-appropriate costume. From Madonna to Freddie Mercury, to the California Highway Patrol (CHiPs) to Top Gunners, the '80s icons were everywhere.
Among the acts taking to the stage on the first full day (Saturday 19th August) were The South, featuring former members of The Beautiful South. Getting the good time vibes started with the pop perfection of 'Don't Marry Her' and 'Perfect Ten', the band proved hugely popular with the Rewind audience. Speaking to eonmusic shortly after performing, singer Alison Wheeler praised the event saying; "we've just got off stage and we've just had the most fantastic set. It was so much fun!" She continued; "I really enjoy playing here; the sun's shining, and everyone's in good spirits".
Following a stellar post-punk wake up call from Derry stalwarts The Undertones, Birmingham originators UB40 were an early highlight, and for many, the band of the festival. Greeting the crowd and acknowledging their mid-billing slot, the band joked; "welcome to the shortest ever set in UB40 history!", before leading some of the loudest singalongs of the weekend, with a grooving 'Cherry Oh Baby', and number one single 'Red Red Wine'.
Rewind favourite Nik Kershaw followed, receiving a hero's welcome. Firing through his evocative hits including a storming 'The Riddle', and classic 'Wouldn't it be Good', Nik praised the crowd for being; "amazing as always", before taking his bows.
Martin Kemp followed, raising the energy levels with his all-killer, no-filler DJ set. Speaking to eonmusic ahead of his performance, the musician enthused about his role as a DJ; "I absolutely love it", he said; "it absolutely beats being on stage with Spandau, because Spandau, it's a rock show, which is almost like a piece of theatre, so you know exactly the steps that you're going to walk in each night. People kind of lose the concept of rock shows being theatre, but that's what they are, so it's kind of become repetitive".
Explaining why spinning the discs gets him going, he continued; "When I go out and DJ, people sing along at the top of their voices, every single track, and it is the most euphoric atmosphere I've ever been involved in. I think when you're in a band, there's always those moments when there's tracks that people don't enjoy, but when you do a set, like DJ like I do, they know every song, and every song is their favourite song, and it brings back the biggest memories, and it's so much fun"
Very much contenders for band of the weekend, ABC proved slick, cool, pop perfection. Pulling no punches from the off with the soulful strains of opener 'When Smokey Sings', they went down an absolute storm. Closing with what else but the Trevor Horn-produced staple 'The Look of Love (Part One)', main man Martin Fry took to socials afterwards praising; "an amazing audience" for; "another fantastic show filled with singing and fun".
Closing out the night, Erasure's Andy Bell's solo set will certainly go down in Rewind history. A divisive talking point, while some stuck by the beleaguered singer, others chose to end their night elsewhere in the arena. Far from the most polished performance of the day.
Celtic post-punk act Big Country proved a big favourite as they blasted through their wide-screen anthems including a glorious 'In a Big Country'. Chatting with eonmusic after their performance, guitarist Bruce Watson enthused that; "it's always good to do Rewind", adding; "It's one of our favourite festivals".
2018 Rewind emcee Toyah followed in spectacular style, mixing her iconic '80s singles with a few covers including an electrifying take on Martha and the Muffins 'Echo Beach'. "I've been performing with Rewind since it started", stated the icon in a backstage interview with eonmusic; "it's really a lovely, lovely family to work with".
Following a fall earlier in the week that put his appearance in question, Tony Hadley proved the hero of the weekend. With leg trussed up in a brace following knee surgery, the former Spandau Ballet man declared; "I didn't want to disappoint again, so here I am on a lovely pink stool!"
Seated, and with whisky and wine to aid him as he battled through, Hadley's good humour shone as he delivered Spandau Ballet top tens 'True', and 'Gold', as well as a rip-roaring take on Queen's 'Hammer to Fall'. He may have been physically under the weather, but the voice remains as powerful as it did four decades ago, and for many, Tony put in the weekend's star turn.
Rewind regulars Heaven 17 had a tough act to follow, but with the call and response dynamics of 'Temptation', they arguably had the song of the day in their set.
Surprising with a number of covers including Sam Sparro's 'Black and Gold' and Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like the Wolf', as well as their own 'We Close Our Eyes', Go West nailed the Rewind remit of hits, hits, and more hits. Praising the festival and giving a shout out to the in-house backing band on social media, singer Peter Cox said; "awesome evening at Rewind Festival. Thanks to all who came to party. Shout out to the Rewind All Stars for making us sound so good".
And so it fell to Squeeze to close out the event. Opening with 'Take Me I'm Yours', the London act brought with them the biggest crowd of the weekend, with even Peter Cox spotted enjoying them. Raising the roof with an uproarious 'Up the Junction', and going on to wow the audience with signature song 'Cool For Cats', they proved the perfect act to close out Rewind South 2023.
With a spectacular fireworks display officially signalling the end of not just Henley, but the three-event Rewind season, revellers danced the night away in the after hours Pink Flamingo, and silent disco.
Rewind Festival returns in 2024, with events in Scotland, Macclesfield, and Henley-Upon-Thames. For tickets, info, and more, visit the official Rewind site.
Stay tuned for full interviews from Henley from Andy Bell, UB40, Toyah, Big Country, The Farm, Nik Kershaw, Nick Heyward, and more.