Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 10:52 UK

United front for The Verve at V

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Richard Ashcroft of The Verve
The Verve closed the V Festival at its Essex site

Reunited rock band The Verve have closed the V Festival, headlining the second night at the Essex site despite rumours of rifts within the band.

Amy Winehouse also appeared on Sunday, on time and back on form after being booed by some at the sister site in Staffordshire the day before.

More than 160,000 fans were at the twin events, with each act playing at both sites over the two days.

Muse and The Prodigy brought the show in Staffordshire to a close on Sunday.

Fans at Weston Park, 30 miles from Birmingham, endured heavy rain and mud throughout the weekend.

But at Hylands Park near Chelmsford, festival-goers largely escaped the bad weather, with sun shining for much of the event.

Rain did fall at the end of the event in Essex as The Verve started their set.

The group, whose comeback album Forth is out next week, had been a doubt for the festival after reported tensions between singer Richard Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe.

Amy Winehouse

She looked like you just wanted to put her in the bath

Music fan Katherine Bache on Amy Winehouse

There had also been reports that McCabe was suffering from exhaustion, but the band's spokesperson said he had just been treated for cutting his finger.

At V on Sunday, Ashcroft made a point of thanking his bandmates from the stage.

The group played hits including Bittersweet Symphony, Drugs Don't Work and Lucky Man, and dedicated Rolling People to late soul singer Isaac Hayes.

Winehouse, meanwhile, played a relatively smooth one-hour set earlier in the evening, after a helicopter delay had made her late the previous night.

She took some time to warm up, but relaxed as the show went on and laughed at a placard that said "Punch me Amy" on one side and "Free Blake" on the other.

That was a reference to her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, who is in jail for attacking a pub landlord and perverting the course of justice.

But her performance split opinion among the crowd.

"We saw Amy Winehouse and thought she was wicked," said Joanna Tapply, from London, adding: "She looked quite happy."

There was a hole in our tent so we nearly got electrocuted
Chemical Brother Ed Simons faces the elements in Staffordshire

But Rachel Guershon, 22, from Surrey, said: "I couldn't understand a word she was saying - she was appalling.

"It was an insult to the fans to come on and do a performance like that."

Her friend Katherine Bache added: "She looked like you just wanted to put her in the bath."

Winehouse is now due to play at festivals in Paris and on the Isle of Wight in the coming weeks, but is then expected to take a break from performing to write and record her new album.

V organisers said Winehouse attracted the biggest crowd of the weekend, while Girls Aloud and Scouting For Girls also attracted huge followings for their crowd-pleasing sets.

Mud-proof mats

Scouting For Girls were joined by Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley for a cover of Elvis Presley's Suspicious Minds during a performance in the VIP area.

Other collaborations included The Kinks star Ray Davies joining The Kooks in Essex on Saturday.

The Kaiser Chiefs headlined the second stage in Essex on Sunday, while the Chemical Brothers topped the bill in the JJB Arena.

V Festival is the most mainstream of the major British festivals, with pop acts such as Duffy, Sugababes, The Hoosiers and The Feeling also on the bill.

It is also the most civilised affair, with warm showers and acres of mud-proof plastic matting used to win over those who may be put off by the traditional image of music festivals.

Tickets for next year's event go on sale on Tuesday. But organisers have warned fans not to buy from unofficial sources, which "could lead to disappointment".

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