With perfect weather and smaller crowd number (following three sold-out days), WOMADelaide’s final day was pure bliss.
Headlined by WOMAD royalty in Youssou N’Dour, there was a fantastic atmosphere around Botanic Park all day. N’Dour was returning for his fourth WOMADelaide – having played the very first festival in 1992 and responsible for some of its most memorable performances over the years. His music is imbued with joy while also managing to tackle important issues like racism and inequality – and his voice is just sublime. Now in his sixties, he still sound incredible and, while he may have slowed a little with age, the infectious energy of his band more than makes up for this. It is all quite a show: drum solos, dancing, a hype-man and singalongs. The rendition of his hit song ‘7 Seconds’ to begin the encore was really quite a special moment.
The feature slot then led into a fourth aerial performance from Gratte Ciel – in an extended session lasting just over an hour to really cap of the celebratory nature of the evening.
There were many other highlight on Monday. Mdou Moctar backed up the previous evening’s performance in fine style – but this time on the main stage. Again it was a guitar masterclass, with Eddie Van Halen style flashes sailing over Toureg rhythms – and all met enthusiastically by the mid-afternoon crowd.
Angel Olsen was another WOMAD coup with a one-off show at 4pm on Stage 2. She was in a playful mood – at one stage introducing her 2016 hit ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ in an off-handed way as a song she had just written that day. Her band, complete with string section, sounded fantastic – and we were left wanting more at the end.
The irrepressible Cimafunk returned to the Foundation Stage, following their opening night performance and it was just as much a party (possibly even more so – as there was now more room to dance). The Afro-Cuban music was the perfect segue into the evening session.
Meanwhile over at Stage 3, Madeleine Peyroux transported us to the streets of Paris with her elegaic songs backed by an excellent three-piece. Such a likeable performer, she seemd genuinely humbled by the enthusiastic response of the audience.
Soul II Soul delivered one of the most enjoyable sets of the festival at 7pm on the main stage. Led by the charismatic Jazzie B on the turntables – whose sermon-like interludes exuded joy, with occasional nostalagia, the outfit is backed by an outstanding ensemble who traverse a range of musical styles. The 1989 hit ‘Back to Life’ at the set was a great moment that had us all moving and singing along.
Genesis Owuso also gave a dymanic performance on Stage 2, powered by his impressive support, the Black Dog Band. Along with the musical interplay and the Owuso’s commanding stage presensce, the strong lighting of the set also made for thrilling show.
Grace Cummings was another standout of the weekend, with a Monday night performance that was just as powerful as her Day One show. This time she started slowly on acoustic guitar before building to bigger, full band material; her otherwordly voice is something you will never forget.
And so ends the busiest WOMADelaide in the event’s history – with probably its finest lineup. Each day offered something different, with Monday feeling closest to the vibe of festival’s ongoing legacy.
Written by Matthew Trainor
Photos by Tessa Manning