WOMADelaide @ King Rodney Park, Adelaide 5/3/2021

Early on I had doubts relative to this re-staging and current rebranding of WOMADelaide as the Sunset concert series along with the move from Botanic Park to King Rodney Park but upon my arrival on the day, I felt like I was home. The imposing bright sunlight shining down upon us, punters traversing back and forth with their takeaway food choices and even the sometimes-intrusive sounds of the nearby Adelaide Fringe hubs Gluttony and the Garden of Unearthly Delights added to the ambiance like the usual nearby competing stage set-ups at a regular WOMADelaide.

It has been announced that this will be Archie Roach’s final tour and it could not be more fitting that as a bookend to his musical career he is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his debut album Charcoal Lane. The performance of songs was immensely fulfilling even though the planned set list was cut short with Archie’s extended introductions. It was apparent that the quite visibly frail Archie was struggling during these spoken-word interludes and although his singing was sounded like a cross between a latter-day Bob Dylan and Louis Armstrong (not a bad thing, mind), he was still able to perform beautifully when singing with the sweeter voices of guests Emma Donovan and Leah Flanagan. Half the set was made up of songs from the album commencing with the title track and including a stand out rockabilly Sister Brother as well as the song he believes he is most well-known for, Took the Children Away, ending with Summer of My Life before the audience gave him a standing ovation.

The second set for the evening after the sun went down was Lior and Nigel Westlake conducting Compassion with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. As with most orchestral music, there was a film soundtrack quality to the performance and the seven pieces ranged from Lior singing ancient Hebrew and Arabic texts over quieter movements to percussive avant-garde frantic episodes with Lior wordlessly vocalising along with the winding melody to overblown bombastic sections of drama where the orchestra let loose. At the completion of the song cycle, Lior played three of his own songs including a beautiful This Old Love dedicated to a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary after having been married at WOMADelaide in 2014, which is the year Lior had last played the festival.

The third and final set of the night was from Sarah Blasko who presented us with a stripped-down version of her 2009 album As Day Follows Night. Joining Sarah was Laurence Pike on drums, David Symes on double bass, and David Hunt on piano. The version presented was different from the recorded version but was no less brilliant. Sarah was wearing an incredible rainbow dress that harkened back to olden days torch singers. Sarah’s velvet voice is still excellent and her ability to perform fast and slow songs is undiminished as demonstrated by her dynamic and exceptional range. Early in the show, the low lights in front of the stage cast large shadows on the white background reminiscent of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene from Disney’s Fantasia.

It was so good to hear this album in full. It won Triple J’s Australian album of the year when released and is an album about a relationship break up. Sarah dedicated Over and Over to the heartbroken. Sarah based this album on a heightened reality version of her life and she likens it to a fancy musical with a “character”. After the album was finished the band left the stage but were soon brought back on due to very loud cheers from the happy punters. We were then treated to a cover of Seems Like Old Times which is a 1945 standard that Sarah included as a bonus track on the album and then Not Yet from her I Awake album. A wonderful end to the first night of a different type of Womadelaide.

WOMADelaide Review By Richard De Pizzol

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