SCOUTING for Girls delivered a masterclass in showmanship at Watchet Festival’s opening night, headlined by 80s icon Belinda Carlisle.

The pop three-piece (Roy Stride, Greg Churchouse and Peter Ellard) were joined by touring member Nick Tsang on their return to the West Somerset festival.

Stride quickly impressed with his commanding stage presence, kept the audience moving and amused with anecdotes as night fell.

The band opened their set of energetic crowd-pleasers with a lively performance of ‘Heartbeat’, a single from the 2007 eponymous chart-topping debut album.

“You know the score,” said Stride after their opening number.

“For the next hour, you are all the fifth member of Scouting For Girls.”

This was followed by ‘Everybody Wants to Be on TV’ from their second album of the same name and ‘This Ain’t a Love Song’.

Stride then described his drive through Somerset to its coastline, saying: “It’s so good to be here, thanks for having us back. 

“This is the most beautiful festival in the world. And I don’t tell all the festivals that.”

Somerset County Gazette: Watchet Festival began on Friday, August 26. Picture: Tom LeamanWatchet Festival began on Friday, August 26. Picture: Tom Leaman

He added: “Our first-ever gig as Scouting For Girls was in Somerset.

“It was at Pilton Men’s Working Club as part of the Glastonbury unsigned competition, and we were absolutely rubbish. But we’ve been practicing for the last 17 years.”

The audience then belted the catchy choruses of the band’s classics, such as ‘James Bond’ and ‘Posh Girls’.

Next up was ‘Stick The Kettle On’, a song written with former X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan about “looking after the people you love when they’re going through a bad time”.

Stride later revealed that Scouting For Girls were only able to perform two gigs from a scheduled 60 in 2020, with “the best one” being held in a car park.

This encouraged a return to the studio last year to record their Easy Cover album, featuring eight reimagined 80s tracks and three new originals.

The crowd was treated to an upbeat cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ before the gig was brought to its feel-good close with three of the band’s noughties big hitters: ‘Michaela Strachan’, ‘Elvis Isn’t Dead’ and ‘She’s So Lovely’.

They were followed on the Main Stage by Belinda Carlisle, who has enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic as a soloist and as part of new wave band The Go-Go's.

Carlisle impressed with her powerful vocals throughout a polished performance that showcased her biggest hits but lacked Stride's charismatic interaction with an audience that grew sparser as midnight closed in.

Somerset County Gazette: Belinda Carlisle headlined the Main Stage on Friday night. Picture: Tom LeamanBelinda Carlisle headlined the Main Stage on Friday night. Picture: Tom Leaman

The Californian's speaking in between tracks was limited, with some of her lines feeling a little scripted rather than dynamic and off-the-cuff.

Her excellent drummer, guitarist and bassist also went unintroduced. 

That said, her music has clearly stood the test of time, particularly tracks from her ‘Heaven on Earth’ (1987) and ‘Runaway Horses’ (1989).

Carlisle moved across the stage with grace - often armed with a tambourine - and ventured towards the front rows to perform ‘Leave a Light On’ and ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’.

Her Grammy-nominated signature song sparked an audience singalong and was no doubt the most memorable moment from her Somerset show. 

Her two-song encore (Big Scary Animal and Live Your Life Be Free) brought the curtain down on night one at Watchet Festival 2022.

Rockers The Fratellis, best known for their 2006 hit ‘Chelsea Dagger’, will headline the Main Stage tonight.