WOMADelaide @ Botanic Park, Adelaide 9/3/2020

Day four of WOMADelaide on the Monday public holiday was a time to do a bit of housekeeping and catch up on some of those things I had not yet experienced up to this point. The weather was again incredible for the fourth day in a row and it is no wonder that the Advertiser this morning is reporting this could be the highest attended WOMADelaide ever if expected Monday sales come through.

On the Foundation stage, Orang Orang Drum Theatre performed somewhat ceremonial kinetically charged percussive choreography on wooden drums and corrugated iron sheeting. I would have liked to see their entire performance and felt that perhaps I should have visited a previous performance earlier so as to have made the decision to do that today.

Although I had already seen them over the weekend, I stopped as I was passing by to see Liniker e os Caramelows performing their epic Brazilian soul and jazz fronted by the charismatic Liniker.

Tuuletaar’s fourth appearance over the weekend after a Taste The World session and two live performances was a workshop on the Moreton Bay stage attended by an enthusiastic audience participating by polka dancing like a mass aerobics class.

The Ezra Collective performed a well-received set of positive jazz vibes that had a tight dynamic interplay between the five musicians. Although their vamps quote from jazz history there was much spontaneity in their performance influenced by sample culture of hip hop and rock. Their self proclaimed “celebration music” was a fantastic dub-inspired afternoon soundtrack.

As well as material from her beautiful album, Odette performed a couple of new songs. I note that there is an incredible confidence in her performance that included some vigorous dancing, notably on Fractured Glass, which is in contrast to her melancholy lyrical content. She concluded her set with A Place That I Don’t Know, and my only criticism would be that set ended too her early with enough time for at least one maybe two more songs. I can’t really complain though as this did allow me time to move from Stage 3 to Stage 2

The legendary Mavis Staples certainly did not disappoint. Over the years her voice has transformed into a fine, raspy growl that she has embraced and when she gives an occasional grunt and “ugh” I can’t help thinking of James Brown during her funk-infused blues and soul set. She gives a roll call of blues artists from Chicago Illinois and the audience howls back at her in appreciation after she references Howlin’ Wolf. When the giant puppets of Company Archibald Caramantran make an appearance, Mavis is especially taken aback and she exclaims, “That’s Snoop Dogg, Tupac, Kanye West, and that girl-” before someone in the audience calls out, “Mavis!” and she loses her train of thought. The band lead by Rick Holmstrom are tight and Mavis occasionally defers to her backing vocalists to take partially lead during a couple of songs including the audience sing-along of the Staple Singers classic Respect Yourself.

Over the weekend on Stage 2, there had been an ongoing theme of one show only performers in the late afternoon with good-sized audiences that ultimately confounded those in attendance unfamiliar with their work such as Aldous Harding on Saturday and Bill Callahan on Sunday.

Laura Marling commenced her set of forceful acoustic guitar playing on an extended unbroken suite of songs comprising of the first five songs of her 2013 Once I was an Eagle album with seemingly free form lyrical meandering and a near 15-minute duration that may have continued to perplex the early evening audience assembled in front of Stage 2. After Master Hunter and a trio of unreleased songs (Fortune, Hope We Meet Again and End of the Affair) she apologised for not being “festival fodder” but the audience responded generously and were gracious in their appreciation. Laura ended her set with the joyous, noisy thrum of Rambling Man which is one of her favourites to end with.

By this time, festival fatigue was truly setting in so I took a rest and made my final visit to the Taste the World tent where Gelareh Pour was in attendance. This is one of the underrated features of WOMADelaide in that it gives an opportunity to see a more personable, less public face of the artists than during that their onstage performances as well as tastings of the food that they have prepared.

Passing by Stage 7 on way back to main stages, I briefly catch some of the set by local artist Oisima and note that in his band tonight are stalwart musicians about town bassist Kiah Gossner, drummer Kyrie Anderson and guitarist Django Rowe all currently interned as Aaron Thomas’s Human Patterns among other musical projects.

Ifriqiyya Electrique over on Stage 2 are making a hardcore industrial racquet in front of a massive screen showing Arabic and African street scenes and is a complete musical and visual contrast to the pared-down performance by Laura Marling than preceded it an hour before. I would have liked to have seen more but in these final hours, I was resuming the catch up I had commenced upon my arrival earlier in the day. I stayed for a couple of songs by the visually arresting Marina Satti & Fones on Stage 3 including a solo a capella performance of a folk song that she then at whim decided to partially redo with her co-vocalists. I then made my way to the Moreton Bay stage for some of Kathryn Joseph’s performance of spooky vaudeville cabaret like a gothic-styled Tori Amos surrounded by a hall of mirrors set.

Sleaford Mods on the Frome Park Pavilion stage arrived to an overeager audience fuelled by alcohol from a convenient nearby bar. During their performance, while Jason Williamson was front of stage spurting his lyrical bile about what issues irritate him, his musical partner Andrew Fearn stood in the background with a beer in hand nodding his head along to the beats, superfluous except to step forward to a laptop computer to start each song. Although the audience is lapping it up, their set essentially comes across like a modern-day Suicide fronted by a less well-read John Cooper Clarke. The familiar chant of “one more song” failed to bring the return of the duo at the conclusion of a one hour set.

Matt Corby was meanwhile wrapping things up on the Foundation stage. Matt was a worthy late replacement for Ziggy Marley who unfortunately pulled out at the last minute. Matt and his band sounded fantastic tonight and it was hard to believe this was the same 16-year old I saw on Australian Idol thirteen years ago. His voice is soulful and powerful at the same time. Highlights (and sing-a-longs) tonight were Brother and Resolution. I have never considered seeing him live before but I now look forward to seeing him on his next tour.

So another WOMADelaide wraps up and I am already looking forward to Friday the 5th of March 2021. I am sure like this year it will be incredible. If it is the highest attended WOMADelaide ever it deserves to be not just because of the excellent weather but because of the wonderful music programmers and festival organisers.

WOMAD Review By Richard De Pizzol & Jason Leigh