When I was a child I found it very hard to try and get to sleep on the nights before Christmas or my birthday. Last night was like that again for me because Womadelaide still excites me so much. It was an absolute joy it is to be at the full four-day Womadelaide festival experience again. Walking through the gates was exhilarating. The weather was perfect for Friday and it looks like that will continue over the full four days.
This year is the 30th anniversary and I am lucky to have been attending since 2004 which coincidentally is the first year the opening act Joseph Tawadros played. Joseph and our incredible Adelaide Symphony Orchestra played many songs from his career arranged to suit the orchestra format. They started with the three songs Concerto for Oud and Orchestra which was uplifting with beautiful middle-eastern rhythms and soaring melodies. Joseph is a multiple ARIA award-winning composer and Oud player and he is a great showman as well. Other highlights were the sombre Point of Departure about his late parents and Bluegrass Nikriz which Joseph described as a Country and Eastern song. The crowd was so appreciative. What a great start to this year’s Womadelaide.
When I walked to the main stage I was a little shocked that the iconic huge Clam Shell stage design of the Foundation stage was missing but I soon realised that the sightlines to the left and the right were much better with the new set-up.
The latest Australian Indie supergroup, Springtime were next on Stage 3. Consisting of Gareth Liddiard from The Drones/TFS, Jim White from the Dirty Three and Chris Abrahams from The Necks. This was only their seventh or eigth gig and they took a little bit of time to get settled in but pretty soon we were treated to an incredible sounding band. They were just so good. They played most of their 2021 self-titled album and two brilliant songs from their just-released EP. Gareth is such a passionate singer and guitarist and Chris and Jim are just outstanding in their roles on piano and drums respectively. Their sound is like an avant-garde jazz fusion but somehow not clinical but warm. It was so good to be standing at a concert again. It is just a different energy to politely sitting down. Highlights were the 15-minute epic The Names of the Plague from the just-released EP and Will to Power which has an incredible riff at its heart. I had heard the album prior to seeing Springtime but I find live they are mesmerising and so much better. Another winning selection from Womadelaide
Back on the Foundation stage for Baker Boy. He is such great fun and so popular with the younger crowd. He dances, sings and has two excellent backup dancers. He started the set with Meditjin, Butterflies, Mr La Di Da Di and then Cool as Hell. I had to leave early as I wanted to go to the next act but I will be seeing Baker Boy’s complete set when he plays again on Sunday.
After a quick walk to Stage 7 near the Frome St entrance, we were treated to the absolute artistry of Reb Fountain from New Zealand via San Francisco. This was the first time Reb and her band had played in Australia. At first, I thought I was listening to a cross between Patti Smith and Nick Cave but these comparisons quickly fall away as Reb is a true original. There are a few styles here to gothic indie punk-folk and noir but underlying it all is Reb’s mesmerising vocal delivery. The band is so effective and tight with her. The whole set was perfect. They played five songs from her 2021 album Iris and five from the 2020 self-titled album and a heartfelt b-side called Hey Mom which gave me chills. Reb is playing an extended set on Sunday on Stage 3 and I can not wait to see her again. The last song tonight was Do You Know Who I Am. Based on the performance tonight I think people will certainly start to know who she is.
I got to see the last thirty minutes of Parven and had also just recently seen her at the Ozasia festival and she impressed me very much. Parven had been at Womadelaide previously with her band The Bombay Royale and her father Dya Singh played the very first Womadelaide in 1992. Parvenu played an excellent cover of Nitin Sawney’s Sunset and Sa and Damage Inside from her album as well as a rocking version of The River from her time with the Bombay Royale. Like Reb Fountain, I look forward to seeing her complete set when she performs later in the festival.
The last thing I saw for Friday was Inner City. This was a dance group formed in 1987 by Kevin Saunderson and now includes his son Dantiez as well a new singer by the name of Steffanie Christi’an. This was one of the tightest dance sets I have seen to close off Stage 7 at Womadelaide. Stephanie was so energetic and had a soulful strong voice and was a worthy replacement for the band’s original singer. This was the first-ever concert they had performed in Australia. I purchased the first album in 1989 when it came out and when they played their unbelievable hits Big Fun and Good Life the crowd and I went bonkers. Kevin said towards the end of his set that thirty years ago he and his fellow collaborators’ aim was to make the world dance with his irresistible Detroit sound and the crowd were certainly dancing tonight. An excellent end to the first day of Womadelaide 2022.
Womadelaide Review By Richard De Pizzol