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MRLN x RKM, Vika and Linda, and Midnight Oil Continue A Stellar WOMADelaide

The 2021 edition of WOMADelaide is starting to heat up, with some of the country’s finest kicking things into top gear.

Image of Midnight Oil performing at the 2021 edition of WOMADelaide

Midnight Oil performing at the 2021 edition of WOMADelaide

Wade Whittington

As a warm day moved into a cloudy evening, it was clear that the second day of the 2021 WOMADelaide festival would be one for the books. While the first night brought in around two thirds of its 6,000 capacity, the Saturday evening had sold out well in advance, promising that it would not only see an increase in numbers, but energy from the audience.

As showtime rolled around, an eager audience was treated to the arrival of MRLN x RKM, a nascent a collaboration between Larrakia, Kungarrakany, and Torres Strait Islander man Marlon Motlop AKA MRLN, and Tulampunga Pakana man MC Rulla Kelly-Mansell AKA RKM.

Having turned heads frequently over the last year, the pair’s profile has been one that many attendees were keeping an eye on, given their recent addition to the lineup due to the WOMADelaide x NSS Academy team-up.

Eager to ensure they kicked things off the right way, the duo – backed by a four-piece band consisting of “some of the prettiest brothers you’ll ever see in your life” – wasted no time in showcasing their eclectic rock sound, sharing powerful socially-conscious lyrics by way of MRLN’s soulful vocals, or RKM’s monstrous rhymes. With lines that spoke of the indigenous and POC experience, and RKM’s own cancer battle, the pair’s songwriting was so appreciated by the crowd that certain lines evoked an outburst of applause due to not only how slick they are, but how hard the message hit.

Showcasing their style by way of funky numbers such as “Vibing Out” or the laid-back “Trippin’”, the group not only cemented themselves as one of the most monumental names on the bill for the evening, but set themselves aside as a pair of artists that you not only should, but undoubtedly need, to pay attention to as their career continues to rise. No more was this evident than on their final song, “Black Swan”, which inspired numerous pockets of dancing and singing as the pair sang one of the finest tracks we’d hear this evening.

Image of MRLN x RKM performing at the 2021 edition of WOMADelaide

MRLN x RKM performing at the 2021 edition of WOMADelaide (Photo: Wade Whittington)

While a brief intermission helped raise excitement levels even more, the waiting soon came to an end by way of the arrival of Vika and Linda Bull, who are not only veterans of the WOMADelaide lineup, but veritable icons of the Australian music scene. Armed with their first new album in 14 years (with Sunday (The Gospel According to Iso) fittingly arriving last year), there was plenty to celebrate, and that’s exactly what the evening would be,

Arriving into the stage to join their five-piece band, the duo – dressed in mostly matching black outfits – silently kicked off their set with a rendition of “There Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)” by Claude Ely. Immediately, the crowd found themselves intensely dancing and chanting lyrics back at the pair, treating them with the same reception as a headline act themselves.

Promising a set of gospel songs, old songs, abs new songs, the pair ducked into the former, sharing a soulful version of “Don’t Cost Very Much”. Exuberant vocals and bouncy instrumentals lifted spirits, encourages widespread smiles, and helped provide one of the most infectious and upbeat sets of the night. Of course, any fan of Vika and Linda would already be aware of the pair’s innate ability to showcase their exceptional musical talent, but with a new record  under their belt, the pair teased the crowd with promise of another new album on the way, before giving the debut of one of these songs, the stunning – and one of the evening’s highlights – “My Heart is In the Wrong Place”.

Following on with the Kasey Chambers-penned  new track “Raise Your Hand” and the heartfelt “Grandpa’s Song”, the pair’s beloved banter punctuated the set, before Vika tearfully introduced a tribute to the late Michael Gudinski, who passed away last week. Closing their hour-long appearance with a cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in Gudinski’s honour, it was a bittersweet, albeit truly touching way to end a performance from one of the country’s greatest duos.

Image of Vika and Linda performing at the 2021 edition of WOMADelaide

Vika and Linda performing at the 2021 edition of WOMADelaide (Photo: Wade Whittington)

As t-shirt’s bearing the band’s iconic logo filled King Rodney Park, it was obvious who the main event of the evening were, with the great Midnight Oil gearing up to make one of two appearances at the festival – tonight performing a set full of their greatest and most beloved tracks.

As darkness fell upon the stage and the iconic Sydney outfit – who celebrate 50 years next year since first forming as Farm – appeared before the crowd, a mighty cheer rose up, fittingly welcoming one of the country’s finest outfits. Kicking things off with the mighty “Read About It”, it took almost no time for Midnight Oil to prove why their appearance was so anticipated this evening.

With frontman Peter Garrett looking like a truly formidable presence onstage, and Adam Ventoura taking his place at the replacement for late bassist Bonest Hillman, Midnight Oil were truly unstoppable, with a barrage of tracks – ranging from the beloved hits like “Blue Sky Mine”, “Truganini”, and “US Forces”, to lesser-known favourites like “Hercules”, “If Ned Kelly Was King”, and “Redneck Wonderland” leaving fans with almost no room to breathe.

Only one track from the recently-released The Makarrata Project made the cut, with Leah Flanagan stepping away from her role as vocalist alongside Liz Stringer to join Garrett for a rendition of “First Nation”. Of course, for those in attendance on Monday, the group will be using their appearance to showcase their Makarrata Live show, with plenty more from the new record set to appear.

Of course, it didn’t end there, with Garrett’s quirky banter (and iconic stage moves) appearing alongside countless riveting moments during their career-spanning set, ranging from a monumental performance of “Beds Are Burning” to the riotous drum solo of Rob Hirst during “Power And The Passion”.

The end of the show also featured something of a heartfelt moment, with a tribute to Bones (and an official welcoming of Ventoura) bringing with it a performance of “One Country” being dedicated to the late bassist.

As “The Dead Heart” brought the evening to a close though, the sell-out crowd found themselves once again chanting for the band to return to the stage. Of course, who could blame them? With a performance such as what they had just seen having soundtracked the last two hours, anyone could be forgiven to wanting to experience a truly life-changing concert for a second time.

WOMADelaide continues on Sunday, March 7th, and runs until Monday, March 8th.

WOMADelaide 2021

Remaining dates:

Sunday, March 7th

Tash Sultana

Monday, March 8th

Midnight Oil
The Teskey Brothers
Siberian Tiger

Friday, March 5th – Monday, March 8th
King Rodney Park, Adelaide, SA
Tickets & Info: Official Site