WOMADelaide Day Four was a very special day with some real quality acts. For me, it never disappoints and this is due in part to the expert staff selecting the acts.
First up today for me was Mama Kin Spender on the Foundation stage. Mama Kin Spender is a new collaboration between Mama Kin (Danielle Caruana) and Tommy Spender (born in Adelaide) and as a special treat Womadelaide also received a 24 strong choir from Adelaide called the Gospo Collective. They are presenting their new album called Golden Magnetic and all except one previous song from an earlier album by Danielle all songs were from the new album. Womadelaide would never present the top acts at 1pm in the afternoon and the crowd that was there was sparse but so, so lucky to have experienced their performance as it was both uplifting and sometimes quite emotional. The song Underground that likened the strength that the fungal mycelium network provides between trees under the earth to family members living far from each other was wonderful. We had songs about mental health and a story about a dream that Danielle had about a displaced person that had her and some of the audience in tears. Tommy was also quite emotional early in the set and this was just because he was so happy to be playing at WOMADelaide. two years ago I remember the band leader of the UK band Spiro on the same stage also getting emotional for the same reason. Danielle and Tommy are wonderful singers and I hope they come back to Adelaide soon. I saw Mama Kin (Danielle) at a smaller stage at WOMADelaide in 2010 and remember her saying she attended the festival as a young girl and her wish was to play here and luckily that wish was fulfilled. Eight years later her new wish was also fulfilled as they got to play their new album for us. The set ended with an incredible version the Air Between Us which left the crowd elated.
Next up was Moussa Diakite & Wassado on stage two. Moussa migrated to Australia and teamed up with the Sydney band Wassado for their performance at WOMADelaide. Moussa is from Mali and at times his guitar work sounded like Afro-Rock and at other times like a surf guitar band. The band played extremely well together and the final song had the crowd really dancing and moving in the hot Adelaide sun.
Back to the Foundation stage for another act from Mali called Tinariwen who last played here in 2012. Tinariwen have been playing since 1979 and started gaining recognition outside of the Sahara region in 2001. We were treated to their guitar driven desert blues. Their songs have an insistent building rhythm which is mesmerising and many of the audience found it easy to sway and dance in time with their skilful playing. In their youth the members of the band heard bootlegged albums from Dire Straits, Santana and Jimi Hendrix among others and one can definitely hear the western influences in their music. Their relaxed style of playing is almost trance-like and I had been hoping they would return to play at Womadelaide again.
Back to Stage two for Nano Stern from Chile who I mistakenly did not see last time he was here in 2012. Nano plays what I would call folk rock and although I did not understand anything he was singing about I thought he was a great singer with excellent charisma. He is an expert at getting the crowd to participate in his performance with clapping, singing and dancing. He told us that when he was a child he had wanted desperately to become a musician much to his father’s annoyance in his poor career choice. When his father was close to dying all his father wanted for Nano to look at the mirror and see the reflection of a happy man. Nano made us sing together and his invitation to do this was because it was better than therapy and cheaper. His band consisted of a drummer and a bass player while he was on guitar and the three of them were world class. Towards the end of the set, he let the music talk playing three in a row without any discussion in-between and at the end gave a toast to wine just before playing his last song.
La Vent Du Nord from Quebec, Canada tore up the Foundation stage with their eclectic mix of folk music combining violin, accordion, keyboard, beautiful harmonies and foot stomping. They are all excellent musicians but my favourite song of their set was one which used their voices and foot stomping only called the La Marche Des Iroquois which was about the Frenchman explorer Samuel de Champlain and his efforts to connect to the Quebec natives. With eight albums to choose from La Vent Du Nord showed off their experience with an exceptionally entertaining set. Just a glorious band.
Much loved Australian band Tex, Don and Charlie were next on stage three. Tex Perkins was in fine form tonight and is a natural front man for whatever band he is in. Tex plays guitar and sang about two-thirds of the songs with Don Walker from Cold Chisel on keyboards singing the other third. Charlie Owen ably backed them up on guitar and slide guitar and all three are national treasures in my opinion. Together live they are an astonishing band with great lyrics capturing the essence of Australia especially the seedier side. The songs played tonight give you an indication of humorous and larrikin like nature with titles like One Step Ahead of the Blues, Harry Was a Bad Bugger and my favourite for the night A Man in Conflict With Nature with Tex on vocals telling us how he blew his dog track winnings on three hookers and sushi. They ended their enjoyable set with The Healing Power of Helpless Laughter.
After a rest and some food, I went back to stage three to see my act of the day. Thundercat is the stage name of Stephen Bruner from Los Angeles. On stage we have Bruner with his custom Ibanez six-string bass playing his squiggly jazz bass fills, a drummer and a keyboard player. Together they make an incredibly tight band. The drummer was absolutely relentless with his rhythms for the whole set. With his falsetto vocals Bruner gave us such favourites as Heartbreaks + Setbacks, Them Changes and Tron Song an ode to his beloved cat. My favourite for the night was Lone Wolf and Cub.
Bruner plays bass like no one else and the way most of the songs build and build and then often end in an amazing crescendo and this really got the crowd excited. Thundercat’s selection on the bill as well as Kamasi Washington the day before was a masterstroke. WOMADelaide has always been good at finding acts that appeal to the millennials and that is an excellent idea as they are the future of WOMADelaide. They have already confirmed future dates of WOMADelaide up to 2024.
The final music act on the main stage was Thievery Corporation from the USA who formed in 1995. Thankfully they brought the whole band along tonight, sounded fabulous and were the perfect act to finish WOMADelaide on. The sound on the main stage was perfect for the whole festival and although a bit louder than other years it was perfect for me as it was enough to drown out the talkers. Thievery Corporation’s sound is eclectic to say the least. The first song started with Sitar and then on subsequent songs we were then treated to dub, trip-hop, bossa nova and electronica. They played songs from their long career and ended with Lebanese Blonde a song I had been waiting for.
Last up on the main stage was the much-discussed Gratte Ciel company presenting their wonderful Place Des Anges aerial show complete with zip lining angels and a huge inflatable cherub along with a “few” feathers. Tonight we got the extended version as a final farewell to WOMADelaide 2018.
Here is looking forward to WOMADelaide 2019 !!
Live Review by Richard De Pizzol