WOMADelaide @ Botanic Park, Adelaide 11/3/2023

Day two of WOMAD brought big crowds, blue skies, and superb entertainment.

With Gaia by Luke Jerram, a precisely proportioned seven-metre inflatable and illuminated globe, watching over us from above, and Angus Watt’s The Flags undulating in the cool breeze, we were spoilt for choice of what to do and who to see.

For those arriving early, there were workshops, seated shows, Taste the World, and a wide array of local and international musicians to enjoy. KidZone was a treasure trove of pursuit for the younger WOMADelaidians. With a dedicated program, including a silent disco and Story Time with Rachael Coopes and Ripple Effect Band, attendees were sure to leave with cool memories.

For those still buzzing from day one, like me, and needing extra time to recharge the batteries, it was a hive of activity when we arrived.

In the From Road Pavilion, The Planet Talks generated a large audience. Hosted by Nikolai Beilharz, speakers Alice Jones, Steve Meller, and Catriona Mcleod discussed Can Seaweed Save the World. It was a thought-provoking conversation highlighting that WOMAD is not just a feast for the ears but also the mind.

Likewise, the eyes. The roving performance of Didier Theron Company’s La Grande Phrase was whimsy at its finest. Wearing pink, inflated suits, they danced around gleefully and generated many smiles from those who saw them.

A similarly joyous experience occurred on the Foundation Stage with South Korea’s ADG7 in their first of two performances this weekend. What a delight they were! Ak Dan Gwang Chil (ADG7) harnessed the power of positivity and offered a colourful and upbeat performance.

Alexander Flood, one of Australia’s most creative drummers and percussionists, wowed audiences on the Zoo Stage with his only performance at the festival. His funky, smooth grooves with splashings of electronica, drum and bass, and sounds inspired by the music of Africa, India, and the Middle East were thrilling.

One of the biggest drawcards for Saturday was up next on Stage 2. Scotland’s The Proclaimers drew a massive audience that extended far beyond the parameters of what is intended with the stage viewing area. Celebrating their fortieth year as a duo, they shared an impressive twenty songs with us. For most, they are only known for their hit songs of the 80s. This performance demonstrated just how much more they are.

Having released their twelfth album in 2022, Dentures Out, we heard a collection of songs that shared humour, poignancy, and sentiment while demonstrating their growth as artists. Without a doubt, the crowd favourites were the final two songs of the set – I’m on My Way, and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Whether you were by the front of the stage, at the food trucks or bars, or listening from a kilometre away, people were singing “Da da da (da da da)/ Da da da (da da da)/ Da Da Da Dun Diddle Un Diddle Un Diddle Uh Da Da”. The brothers Reid were definitely an enjoyable addition to this year’s festival.

Continuing with the up-tempo vibe on the Foundation Stage was the Grammy award-winning Fantastic Negrito. Following the release of his album White Jesus Black Problems (2022) and its re-imagining acoustic album Grandfather Courage (2023), this performance encapsulated all that is Fantastic Negrito. Singing about themes such as racism, capitalism, and love, he blended rock, blues and funk, creating an infectious rhythm that was difficult not to dance to.

A short walk away on Stage 2, Kronos Quartet offered quite a different experience. Here celebrating their fiftieth anniversary, the San Francisco quartet were a moment of calm on a highly sensory day. The sun had set, and everyone was seated and fully engaged with the divine music. From Gershwin to Hendrix, we were taken on a classical music journey that served to recharged the batteries for the remainder of the night.

WOMAD is a festival that embraces culture and diversity. That was evident from the abundance of eccentricity on offer. From people in sequined evening gowns, those wearing elaborate headpieces, and the ones in shorts and t-shirts walking with bare feet, everyone felt at home. And almost everyone was there to see one particular act: Florence + The Machine.

The number of people at the Foundation Stage was absurd. There was a constant stream of bodies walking, pushing, and stretching to try and see the stage. It was a futile experience as most, including me, were relegated to predominately hearing the music only. The music, as has come to be expected from this band, was exceptional.

Heaven Is Here opened the show with King, Ship to Wreck, and Free following. Crowd favourite Dog Days Are Over was fantastic, as it always is at a Florence + The Machine gig. This time it also generated the most conversation from Florence Welch all night. Despite the lack of banter, she commanded the crowd with her charisma and vocal prowess. In a jam-packed, high-energy eighty-minute show, highlights were songs from their earlier albums, Lungs (2009) and Ceremonials (2011). You’ve Got The Love, Cosmic Love, and encore songs Shake It Out and Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) had Florence twirling and punters revelling.

Per usual, Florence + The Machine offered a wonderful performance, if a tad short for headliners. But there were too many people in a comparatively small area to make it a pleasant experience.

While tens of thousands watched Florence + The Machine, followed by Gratte Ciel’s Place des Anges, something special occurred at the Frome Road Pavilion. DEM MOB.

Hailing from the APY Lands, DEM MOB offered a powerful performance which united social commentary with sick beats. JT, PayDay, Matt Gully, Little Malpa, and Big City Killer were electrifying as they commanded the stage for an hour. We were treated to a few new songs, including the smooth-as-butter Soul of the Lion that channelled 00’s RnB. However, Still No Justice was the unifying moment that captured hearts. As we all stood there, fists raised in solidarity, not becoming emotional was challenging with the message the young musicians were spreading.

DEM MOB were by far the highlight of the day. Those lucky enough to see them in their only festival show will cherish the memory.

Clinging onto that high, it was the perfect time to call it a night. So, day two of WOMADedlaide concluded with a smile and a feeling of pride that South Australia has such exceptional talent.

WOMAD Review By Anita Kertes

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