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Siberian Tiger, the Teskey Brothers, and Midnight Oil Bring a Sublime WOMADelaide to A Close

As the 2021 edition of WOMADelaide comes to a close, the festival saved some of its best performances for last.

Press image of Midnight Oil

Daniel Boud*

With three days down and one final – and monumental – day to go, it goes without saying that the final night of WOMADelaide 2021 was set to be one to remember for years to come. With a masterful mix of artists on the bill, the hordes of attendees that flooded in were dedicated to ensuring that their long weekend wrapped up the right way. Thankfully, the magnificent Siberian Tiger were on hand to begin the final night of the festival in fine fashion.

Staples of the Australian music scene in their own right, Siberian Tiger is a comparatively recent addition to the music world, with Bree Tranter (The Middle East, Matt Corby) and Chris Panousakis (Timberwolf) combining their talents to critical acclaim. Releasing their debut EP in 2020 and winning Best New Artist at the South Australian Music Awards, it’s fair to say that anticipation was high for the duo, who took to the stage with rapturous applause from a hometown crowd.

With Panousakis on guitar, Tranter on keys, and a string trio (The Aurora Strings) joining them as their ethereal compositions rang out across the venue, the culmination of their first track welcomed the remainder of their band. With casual banter, relatable tracks like “Water the Plants” and “Call On Me” found an eager audience with the sun-drenched crowd

Equal parts smooth, breezy, and eclectic, the group’s laidback nature served as a truly sublime way to begin the evening, with their luscious compositions undoubtedly leaving countless audience members eager to experience it all again. Given the group’s news that they’ll likely be hitting the studio again in the near future, it seems as thought the wait won’t be too long at all.

Following the standard 45 minute intermission for stage setup, it was time for WOMADelaide to welcome one of the most popular Australian outfits in recent years. Having released their second album, Run Home Slow, in 2019, Melbourne’s not only found themselves as one of the country’s most decorated acts following a litany of awards, but also a chart-topping collective following the release of last year’s Live at The Forum. 

With plenty of hype behind them and with some of the most beloved compositions to their name, the Teskey Brothers’ arrival to the stage was one of pure excitement, with rapturous applause soundtracking their walk onto the stage and the beginning of their first song, “Let Me Let You Down”. Immediately it was clear why they’re so celebrated, with soulful vocals and world-class instrumentation providing the smooth blues that we do desperately needed this evening.

Equal parts soulful and heartfelt, the group’s music feels so majestically intimate that often times it was entirely possible to feel as though they were playing directly to you on a personal level – with every member of the near-capacity  audience fading into the background as the Teskey Brothers showcase their intensely riveting sound.

Astounding soulful vocals felt like we were witnessing great blues reborn, while tracks like “I Get Up”, a cover of INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart”, the truly chill-inducing “Paint My Heart”, and the singalong of “Hold Me” proved that the Teskey Brothers may be some of the best performers in the country today.

As WOMADelaide 2021 came to a close, the crowd was met by the return of Midnight Oil who, just two nights ago, had performed a headline set full of their greatest hits. This time around, things were different, with the band here to debut their ‘Makarratta Live’ show.

The live aspect of their chart-topping album, 2020’s The Makarrata Project, the band’s return to the WOMADelaide stage was this time set to see them joined by an array of the First Nations collaborators featured on the record. The official launch of the show (despite a few earlier gigs in the lead-up), the ‘Makarrata Live’ show was undeniably a must-see portion of the band’s career, and one that showcased just how vital the band are, even here in 2021.

Launching the show with a handful of “classic tracks” – including the perfect opener of “Redneck Wonderland”, “Truganini”, and “Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers” – the group then moved into what the evening was really about, kicking off the ‘Makarratta Live’ portion with the Uluru Statement from the Heart being read out over the PA as it appeared on the screen behind the band.

As it came to a close, Troy Cassar-Daley and Bunna Lawrie appeared onstage to join in on the segued track, “Come on Down”. This kicked off the true spirit of including First Nations collaborators on the bill, with the likes of Dan Sultan, Tasman Keith, Frank Yamma, and Leah Flanagan all joining in on songs from The Makarrata Project, while Alice Skye was given the spotlight for a hauntingly-beautiful rendition of “Terror Australia”.

As the majority of collaborators left the stage, the group retreated back to their earlier catalogue, but leaning mainly on tracks which furthered the underlying theme of their set. As a brief encore break saw the band return to the stage once again, they called upon the entirety of their collaborators for a powerful version of “Beds Are Burning”, which was closed out in part due to a monumental rap from Keith.

As the band bade the crowd farewell, and as the crowd in kind dished out endless applause, it was obvious to all in attendance that they had just witnessed a rare chapter in the life of an incredibly storied band, and one unlikely to be repeated again. Though always socially conscious and serving as advocates for change, a performance such as this left one feeling as though they were indeed on the cusp of witnessing history about to be made. In true form though, this history was made at one of the country’s best and most noteworthy festival, WOMADelaide.

With 30th anniversary celebrations on the card for 2022, thoughts do turn to how on earth could they ever top a festival such as this? Even with COVID restrictions, WOMADelaide have once again set the bar for what a festival should be in Australia – and we were lucky to experience it.