One stage, no clashes. It is not your typical WOMADelaide, but these are not typical times.
As six thousand odd people found their (spaced) seats, Saturday night’s impressive line up kicked off with MRLN x RKM. Marlon Motlop (MRLN) is of Aboriginal Larrakia, Kungarrakany and Thursday Island heritage while MC Rulla Kelly-Mansell (RKM) is a Tulampunga Pakana man. Both have been taking part in the WOMADelaide x NSS Academy music development program for South Australian First Nations and multi-cultural artists. Together they performed a smooth yet compelling thirty-minute set that left the ever-growing audience suitably impressed.
National treasures Vika and Linda Bull took to the stage next and, wow, what a set it was! The Tongan/ Australian women with the stunningly soulful voices were performing at their first WOMAD in sixteen years. And they did not disappoint. They took us on a remarkable journey of song and story navigating through soul, gospel, and pop genres. They were enthralling with not only their voices but their stories.
From the melancholy of Grandpa’s Song to the hilarity of Paul Kelly’s involvement with the writing of Down on the Jetty, their hour-long set contained peaks and troughs of emotion. It had the audience engaged with their every word. Songs such as It Don’t Cost Very Much, Strange Thing Happening Everyday, I’m on my Way, My Heart is in the Wrong Place, and Memphis Flu were captivating. However, it was the final few songs that truly resonated. Old school songs Never Let Me Go and When Will You Fall for Me had people up and dancing as the sun set over Ityamai-Itpina.
As the bats flew across the darkening sky, Vika and Linda concluded their set with a stirring rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. A dedication to the late Michael Gudinski. It was a perfect end to a fabulous performance.
The band everyone came to see, the incomparable and iconic Midnight Oil, hit the stage next. Launching into Read About It with furore, they set the scene for what was to be an epic two-hour show. Age may have slowed Garrett down a tad, over forty years in the industry will do that to a person, but it certainly has not slowed down his or the band’s passion for music, performing or political activism. At their core, Midnight Oil “like to rock”, as Garrett so eloquently put it before launching into No Time for Games. And rock WOMAD, they did.
With a setlist drawn from their forty-plus year career, we were treated to the songs: Read About It, Blue Sky Mine, Put Down That Weapon, Hercules, If Ned Kelly Was King, No Time for Games, Time to Heal, Only the Strong, First Nation, Truginini, Short Memory, US Forces, Kosciusko, Redneck Wonderland, Forgotten Years, Beds are Burning, Best of Both Worlds, Power and the Passion, One Country, and The Dead Heart.
With this immense twenty song setlist, it was difficult to pick just one highlight. Was it Peter Garrett’s harmonica solos on Blue Sky Mine and Truganini? Yes. Was it Jim Moginie’s insane guitar solo on No Time for Games? Yes. Was it Leah Flanagan’s soulful vocals on First Nation? Yes. Or was it the poignantly eloquent protest against colonisation and forgetting in Short Memory? Yes, it was. Or perhaps the violation of expectation of the opening drum beats of Beds are Burning, then realising holy cow, this is Beds are Burning?! Oh, definitely yes. Or even Rob Hirst’s PHENOMENAL drum (and rainwater tank!) solo on Power and the Passion? Absolutely, yes! But, there was no better feeling than dancing and singing at the top of your lungs with six thousand others to Oils classics.
Midnight Oil proved why they are arguably one of Australia’s greatest bands on Saturday night. Together with MRLN x RKM and Vika and Linda, they ensured that WOMAD Day Two was an unforgettable experience.
WOMADelaide Review By Anita Kertes