As a successful but different kind of WOMADelaide drew to a close, the best was arguably, as they say, saved for last.
Opening the evening’s entertainment was Adelaide’s own Siberian Tiger. Off the back of their first EP, First Dance, released amid a confused 2020, Bree Tranter and Chris Panousakis took to the stage with The Aurora Strings to an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. The duo sauntered through a wistful set amid the Autumn afternoon sun. Songs including Water the Plants, Plane Spotting, and Call On Me provided the perfect balance of eccentricity and leisurely charm to laze the day away. Tranter and Panousakis’ vocal harmonies layered with the richness of the strings was the ideal atmosphere to sit back, enjoy and just be.
The relaxed atmosphere continued when The Teskey Brothers took to the stage; their smooth and seductive sound washing over King Rodney Park as the night grew cooler and darker. Brothers Josh and Sam Teskey, together with Brendon Love on bass and Liam Gough on drums, opened their full length set with Let Me Let You Down to rapturous applause. And it only got better from there. Carry You from 2019’s Run Home Slow followed before the unhurried and sultry Say You’ll Do had everyone transfixed, as Josh described, with “Mr Sam Teskey singing on the guitar”.
Lyrically and musically, they articulated deceptively straightforward universal truths through the songs I Get Up, Rain, So Caught Up, Never Tear Us Apart – an INXS cover – Louisa and Pain and Misery. However, the two highlights were Paint My Heart and Hold Me, the final song of the set. The former was an epic musical journey with an undulating flow reminiscent of The Doors. Whilst the latter was just a big ol’ WOMAD singalong. The Teskey Brothers exuded passion on the stage from woe to go. They left everyone feeling the love, smiling from ear to ear, and suitably warmed up, at least spiritually if not physically (it was really cold!), for the main event.
When Aussie legends Midnight Oil powered onto the stage, it was for the second time in three days. There was certainly no space for lethargy as they smashed out classic hits Redneck Wonderland, Truganini and Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers with the gusto of a new band performing on a festival main stage for the first time. Frontman Peter Garrett then paused to put on more layers of clothing (as mentioned previously, it was really cold!) and introduced the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
With the Statement emblazoned on the enormous red backdrop, it became evident that iconic First Nations musician Troy Cassar-Daley was on stage reciting it. Together with Bunna Lawrie and the Oils, they launched into Come on Down. And so began Makarrata Live.
The Oils seven-song mini-album The Makarrata Project was championed on night four of WOMADelaide in remarkable fashion with First Nations Collaborators. In addition to Troy Cassar-Daley and Bunna Lawrie, Dan Sultan, Leah Flanagan, Alice Skye, Tasman Keith, and Frank Yamma each joined the Oils for unforgettable renditions of Gadigal Land, First Nation, Change the Date, Terror Australia, Wind in My Hair and Desert Man, Desert Woman.
In amongst the powerful music stood Garrett, with an equally compelling message. He passionately spoke of the plight of Indigenous Australians, equality, and evoking change – themes evident across Midnight Oil’s forty-plus year discography. His monologues were stirring and generated a sense of unity among the crowd listening to his every word.
At the conclusion of Makarrata Live, Midnight Oil continued to belt out some classics that leant towards the reconciliation theme. Only the Strong, Luritja Way, Kosciuszko, Best of Both Worlds and Power and the Passion, with an unparalleled Rob Hirst drum solo as its centrepiece, rounded out the night.
Notwithstanding, it was the encore that will forever live in the hearts and minds of those present. With all collaborators back on stage, together with Midnight Oil, they sang a reimagined version of Beds are Burning. The highlight being a jaw-dropping rap interlude by Tasman Keith. It was the perfect end to an extraordinary and unifying evening.
While WOMADelaide 2021 may have looked and felt different to the norm, the people of Kaurna land were fortunate to have experienced it and to have experienced some the immense talent this nation has to offer. Siberian Tiger, The Teskey Brother, Midnight Oil and the First Nations Collaborators collectively put on an unforgettable three Act performance. No doubt one that will be remembered and talked about for years to come.
WOMADelaide Review By Anita Kertes