Live Review: Bluesfest Day Five

3 April 2018 | 2:56 pm | Bernie WinterNada van Kempen

"The dancing continues long after the performer has left the venue."

Photos by Peter Dovgan

Photos by Peter Dovgan

More Bluesfest More Bluesfest

After the massive Sunday crowd, numbers start to swell again at Crossroads as Con Brio bounces onto stage for their second set this festival and immediately cranks up the energy with their electric funk, R&B sound.

Vocalist Ziek McCarter shimmies, slides, skates and shreds across the stage, his red boots flashing. The setlist is taken from their Kiss The Sun EP and more recent Paradise album, and even includes an a capella version of She Works Hard For The Money just to showcase the singer's brilliant vocal range.

The crowd response roars as he challenges "who's got it?" and leads the audience through a raucous singalong. Despite the singer's gob-smacking presence on stage, the music shines strong with the seasoned blues guitar of Benjamin Andrews, keyboard and crazed saxophone and trumpet sections working the crowd to each rising crescendo. The stage theatre, while rehearsed, appears absolutely crazy with trumpeter Brendan Liu's grin and antics lighting up as he stalks around the stage.

McCarter reappears shirtless for the last song, strutting mercilessly to a final glorious saxophone solo. With the amped audience urging him on, he reels off three backflips to thunderous applause. "We came to give it all," he says, as the crowd takes off the roof in appreciation of another stellar Bluesfest performance.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Many people have been saying don't miss Australian folk-rock William Crighton's performance this Bluesfest. Playing to a smaller but appreciative audience, the sun sets across the Juke Joint stage as while he played fuzzy acoustic guitar, the singer goes solo first delivering dark meaningful lyrics about his early family life and Royal Commissions into sexual abuse. He introduces his band onto the stage after the third song. The setlist includes songs from his self-titled 2016 LP and the standout is an electric version of Talking To God, highlighting the authenticity of his story-telling and vivid imagery defined through his songwriting.

read more:

Over in the Jambalaya tent, Walter Trout brings classic blues to a grateful crowd. Joined by his son, Jon Trout, the blues veteran shreds, wails, and bends his guitar. It's a triumphant return to appreciative fans (health complications stepped in and nearly took Trout's life in recent years). The wailing, screaming blues takes a momentary back seat with Trout's slow sway Please Take Me Home - a song written about his time in hospital - creating quiet contemplation in the crowd. In a closing remark, Trout reminds the crowd that without organ donation he would not be here; a sobering reminder in a stellar set of how much this blues legend has overcome.

Over on the Mojo stage, much-loved Aussie singer-songwriter Dan Sultan brings his music again to a swelling late afternoon Bluesfest audience. "Are you ready?" he asks the boisterous audience, with a pick in his mouth. Fake grimacing and finger-pointing, he cajoles the crowd to up the amps with each successive song. The crowd gets crazy as Sultan's fingers fly around the frets. His performance is a reminder of the quality of Australian blues and roots in 2018.

Citizen Cope moves from the larger Crossroads stage to the more intimate Delta stage for his second set on the 2018 Bluesfest program. Memphis-born and well regarded for his blues, folk and rock mix, his compositions have been recorded by many other artists over his career. His setlist is taken mainly from later LPs The Rainwater and One Lovely Day. Cope offers few words on stage and rarely engages with his nevertheless appreciative audience. "I don't know how you found my music but I'm sure glad you did," he says as he moves across his guitar.

Over on the Juke Joint stage, the Clarence Bekker Band delivers soul and reggae grooves. The Dutch vocalist is surrounded by musicians from all continents as he shimmies across the stage. Starting with a Bob Marley cover, he bounces into In My Mind, which has the audience dancing along immediately. Bekker is clearly driven by social justice issues and speaks to the audience about the Playing For Change organisation and the importance of building schools and educating the impoverished.

Headline act Lionel Richie glides onto the Mojo stage with a confidence that can only come from decades of playing the biggest venues. Dressed in a black tailcoat, his repertoire is so well known and loved that the audience mouths every verse across the set. His voice sounds exactly as you remember from so many radio playlists.

Supported by his polished backing band, the singer launches into Endless Love, followed by My Destiny. Moving to a white keyboard, he flawlessly sings Say You, Say Me and is drowned out by an uber appreciative audience response. "And we are not done yet," he says, launching into Hello backed by the entire audience. He speaks about all the artists he has worked with and are now not with us anymore — George Michael, David Bowie, BB King and more. Richie then starts into We Are The World, acknowledging the song was co-written with Michael Jackson. "This is not a dignified crowd, but I'll try to keep it as dignified as possible," the singer observes as the crowd howls, now perched on each other's shoulders with arms flailing in time to his mega-hits.

Leaving the stage, he changes into a sequinned jacket for the final song. Generously acknowledging and bowing with his band front stage, he starts into All Night Long. "I'll be back," he says to thunderous approval. The dancing continues long after the performer has left the venue.