Nearly 19,000 people celebrated the return of large-scale live music events at WOMADelaide 2021, held between 5-8 March in Adelaide’s King Rodney Park. Its reimagined COVID-Safe format was embraced and hailed by critics and audiences alike as an enormous success.
The four nights featured two unforgettable performances from global rock icons, Midnight Oil, alongside a stunning performance from Tash Sultana, their first since the release of their new number one album, and an emotional farewell show from the beloved Archie Roach.
Opening the festival on Friday evening, Roach took the stage to a standing ovation as the crowd was treated to a musical journey spanning his incredible three-decade career, which has included seven performances at WOMADelaide. Taking songs from Charcoal Lane, Archie wove intensely personal tales of adventures and heartbreak into a performance that moved the audiences to tears.
Also, on Friday, singer Lior, conductor Nigel Westlake and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra were a revelation with their stunning song cycle of ancient Hebrew and Arabic texts, Compassion. Sarah Blasko closed out the night in spectacular and dramatic fashion, celebrating the tenth anniversary of her breakthrough album, As Day Follows Night.
Saturday’s tone was set from the first beat, as WOMADelaide x NSS Academy graduates MRLN X RKM energised the crowd with their biggest performance to date. Soul sister duo Vika & Linda, sounding as fresh as ever, delighted audiences with their banter, vocal prowess and harmonies across a host of gospel, blues and upbeat tracks, ending with a spine-tingling cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water in memory of legendary Australian music producer Michael Gudinkski.
Midnight Oil belted out a two-hour set spanning their much-loved forty-year catalogue, ending the night with a touching tribute to the recently passed bassist, Bones Hillman.
Sunday evening saw an impressive WOMADelaide debut by 20-year-old Miiesha, who captivated the audience with her poignant lyricism, wisdom and soulful vocals. Kaiit, returning to WOMADelaide after two years, free-flowed with a jazzy, playful RnB set, commanding the stage.
The final act, Tash Sultana, highlighted why they are one of the hottest acts in Australia, if not the world. Sultana delivered a show that left fans gasping at her mastery of a dozen or more instruments and pure voice, thrilling them as they criss-crossed the stage, building a wall of complex sounds.
Opening the final night's festivities, Adelaide band Siberian Tiger wowed with their gentle folk-pop, accompanied by a glorious string quartet. The Teskey Brothers picked up the energy, with dreamy vocals and guitar virtuosity, before The Oils returned with First Nations Collaborators for Makarrata Live. A spectacular performance of solidarity and empowerment driving recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people featured some of the country’s finest First Nation's musicians, including Dan Sultan, Alice Skye, Troy Cassar-Daley, Tasman Keith, Leah Flanagan, Frank Yamma & Bunna Lawrie, was the perfect closing to four nights in King Rodney Park and the end of WOMADelaide 2021.