WOMADelaide has never had a headliner quite like Florence + the Machine. That Saturday tickets (along with 3 and 4 day passes) sold out six weeks in advance of the event really says everything about the act’s popularity. This also meant that Day Two was even busier than the opening night, and the crowd at the Foundation Stage at 8:45 was really something. And in an unusual turn for WOMAD, instead of the transient movement from site to site, there was a build-up in front of the main stage from an hour before the set.
This should be no surprise, with a reputation for dynamic live shows and coming armed with one of the best albums of 2022 in Dance Fever. Florence Welch and her ensemble repaid this anticipation with a brilliant performance across almost eighty minutes. Florence is also a great festival performer, with such a strong understanding of the value of gathering together like this for music. Over the set she was in full command of her audience getting us to dance, embrace and put our phones away to enjoy the moment. During a three song stretch starting with ‘Dream Girl Evil’, Florence ventured to the front of the crowd, holding hands and singing directly to one fan at one point. It was a terrific point of connection. Throughout, she and her band sounded in top form, with a set dominated by last year’s album alongside a great selection of career highlights.
Earlier in the evening we got a dose of nostalgia from The Proclaimers, and while they have aged like the rest of us, they still sound excellent with an upbeat selection of songs and signature vocal interplay – and they really got our feet moving. Strategically, they played songs from across the years but held off on the big ones until the very end. When ‘I’m On My Way’ appeared 65 mins into the set there was a huge cheer of recognition, followed straight up with a stirring singalong to ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ to end the set.
Fantastic Negrito lived up to his name with the dinner-time set on the Foundation Stage. Such a charismatic performer, he prowls the stage and emotes like James Brown. His band are also excellent, with extended jams and providing the songs with a harder edge than what’s heard on the studio recordings. Like Florence, he produced one of 2022’s finest albums (with hands down the best title) in White Jesus, Black Problems. It was thrilling to hear this material performed, with rear projections underscoring the personal element as the artist mines his own personal history while exploring America’s conflicted soul. He really is a stunning performer, who is back again today at 4:30 on Stage 2 – so don’t miss it!
At the other end of the night, DEM MOB provided a fantastic way to finish the day at WOMAD with some high-energy hip hop from the APY Lands. They worked the late-night crowd well, blending musical styles and cultural influences to produce something powerful and characterised by joy in performance.
WOMADelaide continues today and tomorrow (with limited Monday tickets available).
Written by Matthew Trainor
Photos by Tessa Manning, Florence + the Machine photos supplied (credit: Jack Fenby & Wade Whitington)