Many bands hit gold at some point. It might be an era when personnel meshed brilliantly; a concert when repertoire, audience and venue all combined for a stunning show; the final mix of a recording on which they know they really nailed it.
Now I have a third golden moment to add: the launch of Makarrata Live at the closing evening of WOMADelaide 2021, in which Midnight Oil collaborated with great First Nations artists such as Leah Flanagan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Frank Yamma and Bunna Lawrie.
Revelation is a word closely associated with WOMADelaide for me.
Sure, when the artist announcement is released, I’ll be familiar with a few of the headliners. But each year I go along confident that it will be a weekend of surprises, as an array of instant new favourites are revealed.
Opening night was always going to be an emotionally-charged event. Archie Roach came on stage for his 7th and final WOMADelaide show – more repeat performances at WOMADelaide than any other artist – and the crowd responded with a standing ovation before he’d sung a note.
And he did it – as he has at recent concerts – accompanied by an oxygen cylinder, to boost his airways as he copes with obstructive pulmonary disease. Ten years ago he’d recovered from a stroke and also having half a cancerous lung removed. Last year – just before his induction to the ARIA Hall of Fame – Archie was in ICU for treatment and then performed with a medical team on hand backstage.
But Archie’s big heart and yearning to bring people together through storytelling in his unmistakeable voice is as powerful as ever.
I have to confess that I felt cheated when I first saw the COVID-safe plan for WOMADelaide 2021. How can it be WOMADelaide if it’s not in beautiful Botanic Park, and if it’s really just a series of 4 evening sit-down concerts?
But eventually I realised I was being greedy. After all, how lucky were we to squeeze in a full WOMADelaide last year, just before COVID lockdowns and border closures swung into force?
And I also remembered how brilliant the mini-WOMAD in the Vales had been in 1998, starring the late great Geoffrey Oryema of Uganda.