Live Review : Bluesfest Byron Bay 2018 – Day 2

Review by Wanda Hill

Youssou N’Dour at Bluesfest Byron Bay 2018
Photographer : Stuart Blythe

Bluesfest 2018 – Friday 30th March – Day 2

Mesmerising singing in language, dancing and didgeridoo emanated from the Boomerang Festival dance grounds from early in the day. Smoking leaves scented the air around people gathered to watch Jannawi Dance Clan and Muggera Dancers. Setting the tone, for a day filled with crowd participation, the lead song man invited the audience to learn a few dances. Connecting with, honouring and protecting the land was a strong theme in the movements and intention of the dances we were invited to learn.

The Juke Joint erupted into a positive energy explosion as the bamboo orchestra from the Solomon Islands – Narasirato – took to the stage. Try wiping the smile off your face after seeing these impressive men create multilayered pan flute harmonies with instruments ranging from standard pan flute size to something you need a stand to support, over beats and bass sounds made by bamboo percussion instruments thwacked with rubber paddles and log drums. The result is electrifying and their effervescence is contagious.

Newton Faulkner had the Delta busting at the seams as people flocked to be part of his music where he split the audience into two or sometimes three sections giving each section their own part to contribute to his songs. His unique guitar style and warm vocals won the hearts of festival patrons. Later in the evening Canned Heat gained new younger fans at the Delta as they rolled out hit after hit from their impressive song list dating back to 1966. This band epitomises the 60’s and there is one more chance to see them at the Delta stage tonight Saturday 31st March at 8:30pm.

Bluesfest would not be complete with out a mega African band and Youssou N’dour with his band Le Super Étoile de Dakar from Senegal were as epic as one would expect from a 14 piece outfit. Spectacular rhythms from an extensive percussion section played mbalax beats that give this music it’s signature sound. Tama (Talking drum) player Assane Thiam took centre stage at times allowing this incredible instrument to shine. Youssou’s love for his country and Africa in general was evident in his song lyrics and the passion and joy invoked by his miraculous vocal tones and range.

Proving that it is never too late to win a Grammy Award, Bobby Rush won Best Traditional Blues Album in 2017 at age 83 for his album Porcupine Meat. With over 50 years experience he had no trouble at all entertaining and enthusing Bluesfest patrons at the Delta stage. His funky blues style and wicked sense of humour had people laughing and dancing and generally letting go. His fabulous band and dancers will get you all fired up so don’t miss this Blues legend appearing again Sunday April 1 at the Juke Joint, 6pm for a solo gig, and again with his band at the same venue at 10:30pm.

Robert Plant needs no introduction, his legendary status evident by the time needed to find a spot to watch him. The crowd were edgy and sweating with anticipation waiting for their hero to arrive. His spectacular performance focused on newer music and highlighted his mastery in weaving different styles of music together in collaborative works with his band the Sensational Space Shifters and guest artists. Songs from his most recent album Carry Fire are influenced by country music, middle eastern sounds and even a few dance like beats and pads have found their way in. The result is shear magic.

Understanding his fans a few Led Zeppelin songs were played, including a rework of the Lead Belly original The Gallows Pole. The audience were mesmerised by every song, old and new, including the encore finale Whole Lotta Love which pretty much summed up the feeling in the tent as adoration bounced back and forth from Robert to the audience and the audience back to Robert.

Even having to wait over two hours for traffic gridlock to clear in the northern car parks could not dampen the high from this magical day at Bluesfest, as many chose to keep the party going rather than sit idling in their cars. Having said that, it would be great if this issue did not occur again tonight.

Photo Gallery : Bluesfest Byron Bay 2018 – Day 2