Adelaide Botanic Gardens
OK if you dont like long reviews look away now.
Womadelaide has been going since 1992 and they have got the organisation down pat by now. It is very civilised – book a hotel in the CBD or North Adelaide and take a stroll down for 4 days of World Music. Heat is the usual concern not mud a la Glastonbury in the UK or the other big Festival here- the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival. The first festival had Peter Gabriel, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Youssou Ndour , Remy Ongala and a bunch of other greats. The lineups can fluctuate -sometimes too much drums ,other times too many artists backed by a line of French players in black t shirts in ponytails. But this was one of the better line ups and the weather was in the mid twenties , far more comfortable than the mid-thirties.
Here’s a bit on a few of the acts I saw.
Rufus Wainwright closed Friday.As soon as he started with that slurring vocal I walked off and listened to a blue grass act before returning to hear him sing 3 sublime, slow ,understated songs. Too much talent, too many projects ,too many vocal mannerisms but when he is on, he is really on.
Mista Savona is a Melbourne reggae act led by Jake Savona. Classic reggae and dancehall. With their brass line they sounded like Aswad. Jake had brought in old school Prince Alla from Jamaica and Randy Valentine from London,. They loved the setting the weather, the crowd, the sound system – top show.
Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens hasn’t put out a record for 7 years (one in the offing) . Some of his stuff can be as thin as his voice. But he has a real stage presence and a great way with words. His sound was beefed up to the power of 10 by teaming up with Seattle indie/avante garde/soundtrack bassist Jherrek Bischoff. Never heard of him but fuck he can play that Hoffner bass. There was a string quartet orchestrated by JB too. Took Forster’s songs including a few Go-Betweens songs ( House that Jack Kerouac Built, Clarke Sisters, Dive for your memory) to a new level.. The bass playing at times reminded me of the Bad seeds, other tunes JB strummed the bass like a guitar. I filmed some stuff and hope to post on You Tube. As an aside I went to get a cd signed and there was a huge queue but they were all there for senior citizen Buffy St Marie- Robert was by himself reading a book. “There’s no competing with an old hippie I commented”. He readily agreed saying I was his first customer. He intends doing some more shows with JB so look for them if they hit Europe.
A big disappointment was a hero of mine Abdullah Ibrahim. Mousey saw him at the Adelaide Town Hall solo piano but here at Womad, after a long and lovely piano piece, the rest of the set was too much flute and just too subdued for me. I got bored. Others loved it.
Another disappointment was Bombino – Tinariwen light. And I don’t like European band members wearing Tuareg outfits – looks silly.
A Malawian band Mouse Brothers(?) were the typical group that make a living out of festivals but with limited skill and a limited repertoire.
There were the usual Cubans – Buena Vista stuff, noisy Balkans, Spanish fusiony stuff that Womad always hires. Another one to underwhelm me was Neneh Cherry – the electro kit and drums just didn’t sound enough for me. It all sounded the same.
The Gloaming the Irish /American “supergroup” were simply stunning. Reels and airs but with harmonium and striking original piano to take it to another level.
Sidiki and Toumani Diabate were reviewed by Mousey elsewhere. I’ll just add 2 things – 1. You cant beat listening to this on a warm still night while staring at the stars through ancient trees. 2. It’s a testament to their talent that one of the best songs was Lampedusa a song written by them recently when most of the repertoire is traditional songs honed and handed down through generations.
Gruff Rhyss played solo ,ecentric performance about John Evans and the lost tribe of Welsh, funny for a while but it wore thin.
Another quirky fellow was Robyn Hitchcock . He has been in Oz for 8 or so months on an artistic sabbatical. He teamed up with a young local Emma Swift with a very pure voice. Played a lot of covers including the Everly Brothers capped off with 2 favourites – Pancho and Lefty and Pale Blue Eyes.
So onto the BIG VOICES.
Youssou Ndour- Minister of Culture ,Adviser to the President and still fronting a superb band and still with that remarkable voice. And no hint of a big ego.I commented on the dexterity of the talking drummer and my friend who saw Youssou at the Festival in Fez complained that the talking drummer there played as well AND did somersaults while playing.Just no pleasing…
I’ve written elsewhere about Sinead O’Connor. Last time I saw her she mooched onto stage in grey t shirt and grey tracky dacks. Not this time – Shaved head,leather jacket priests collar and big silver cross .She looked tough and sang with such power from the get go that people were stunned. She said “Womad festivals are always the best shows to play “loves which I am sure helped her disposition. Fook this, fook that, but all in good humour. I’d have liked some of her reggae album or the traditional Irish album but what we got was great. Emperor’s New Clothes a highlight. Ever the naughty girl she said she wasn’t going to do the dirty version of The Last Day of Our Acquaintance , then of course she did…….it started with the alternative line “I’ve got a cucumber inside me”-all sung with her priest collar and crucifix. Only Sinead.
Well mannered, lots of kids, wide range of ages and nationalities.Plenty of hippies , -typical Womad crowd
It made me think..
I think this Festival in this location has got to be one of the best there is.