Adelaide Botanic Park, Mon Mar 9.

By the time I arrive on Monday Fourplay are already part way through their set and I’m regretting not getting there earlier. Their sound is both intoxicating and adventurous. Having not seen them before I was not expecting this string quartet to also feature such gorgeous vocals, and their choices rage from quiet classical to Rage Against The Machine. I hope they return to Adelaide very soon.

From there to The Zoo tent to listen to Karramunga  from Cairns. They deliver some fairly traditional-sounding folk ballads with a joyfulness that is infectious. A problem with the generator brings their set to a close slightly early, but they seem to remain rather good-natured about it.

Once again 4 o’clock brings an embarrassment of riches, but I opt for a bit of Irish and head to Stage 3 for The Gloaming. Their take on traditional Irish music is very pleasant listening, but their performance in the afternoon sun is very laid back and not setting me alight. I hurry down to the Moreton Bay stage for a bit of Emma Swift & Robyn Hitchcock and hear enough to wish I had caught the whole set. Songs like Trams Of Old London and Lou Reed’s Pale Blue Eyes are right up my street!

It’s been a long time between drinks with Buffy St Marie as I last saw her play in the early ‘70s, so my curiosity is piqued and I head for Stage 1. Buffy’s second song is easily the worst song I have heard all weekend, so I nervously start fidgeting with the program guide and text friends to find out where they are. They take a while to respond and meanwhile Buffy launches into some rockier numbers about eco-piracy that are much more engaging. Then she dismisses the band for a solo rendition of Universal Soldier that has me back to being in awe of her songwriting. Songs from her new album are good, and with a few hits like Up Where We Belong, I have to admit she earned her spot in the Tower of Song years ago!

The need to engage with friends at this point tears me away from my intended plan of listening to the Abdullah Ibraham Quartet. I’m told afterwards that during the first part of his set when he was playing solo, he is drowned out by the neighbouring noise of the Colour of Time crowd. Those who persisted are rewarded when he brings out the rest of the trio. I’m sorry to have missed this, and also to have missed young local Timberwolf, but such is WOMADelaide that you can’t see everything. Instead I was able to hear Lake Street Dive, but their music did not appeal from a distance.

My need to eat and socialise at this point, also a great part of the WOMADelaide experience, means that I do not see any music for the next hour. I hear that the crowd is down a bit on Stage 1 for Criolo, but The Zoo is overflowing because someone has inexplicably scheduled something featuring Gotye there. Not a Gotye gig as such, but anything featuring Gotye was always going to draw a crowd and needed a much bigger space.

I have already seen all of the acts on at 8pm so my lingering to take in some of the various stalls continues. This is a huge mistake, as I hear that with the larger space of stage 3 and a projected backdrop, Neneh Cherry has turned on a much more dynamic performance than the day before. For some, an absolute WOMADelaide highlight. Damn!

Finally, the act I have been waiting for all weekend – Sinead O’Connor. She begins with a song that is a blistering attack on someone who has displeased her, and you know instantly that she is still a force to be reckoned with. She looks good, if a little nervous and distracted, and turns on some gritty rock and roll that consists mainly of newer material. If there was any doubt, Sinead still makes music that matters. I begin to worry that some of the people who have only come to hear the hits may miss out, but she’s saving those up for later. She leaves the stage without having done the big one though, and you know she could have decided not to. Thankfully, she returns to do two more songs, including Nothing Compares 2 U. As has happened many times this weekend, the artist delivers her best moments with minimal accompaniment.

So there it is; a four-day weekend of checking out the various acts that WOMADelaide has delivered this year. The weather has been very kind, the atmosphere has been great. The music on offer has been sensational. All-in-all a memorable festival. Time to rest for a while and wait for it all to happen again next year! Thanks WOMADelaide!!

Adrian Miller

Image courtesy of Ben Searcy 

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