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| 8 April 2015 | Reply

Fremantle Park, Sunday 29 March, 2015
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Maree King

West Coast Blues & Roots 2015 - 05 Beth Hart  (5)

The twelfth annual West Coast Blues & Roots Festival got off to a raucous start with ‘Breakthrough to Blues & Roots’ artist OLD BLOOD impressing early starters with some of the most authentic blues on this year’s bill. Edo Ekic’s fluid guitar work and Tony Papa-Adams’ gravelly growl lent grit to a howling set before the more polished acts to follow.

Fast becoming a stalwart of such events, talented local multi-instrumentalist MORGAN BAIN wasted no time in showing why he’s so highly respected. Possessing a mighty big voice for a wee fella, Bain played a blinder of a set, hitting tracks new and old. Local radio favourite I Think I Got You was an early highlight with its “woo-ohh-oohoohoooh” refrain, whilst his forthcoming single Why Don’t You Stay ended his set on a quieter but solid note.

LANIE LANE’s voice has an ethereal quality – think Heart’s Ann Wilson or Ambrosia Parsley of Shivaree – and she wields it like a bouquet of flowers, her delicate tunes a beautiful way to ease gently into a long, sun-drenched day. Playing “probably my most well-known song” What Do I Do, followed by “definitely my least well known song, because I only wrote it three nights ago,” One Day Closer – which included a wonderfully ad-hoc acapella section – her delicate touch and gentle genius shone like sun glittering on a pond.

KIM CHURCHILL, shaggy surfer-blonde moptop bouncing in the breeze, does the one-man-band thing better than most. Strumming a guitar, drums clamouring as he keeps the beat with his foot pedals, harmonica harping and chimes jangling, his style may not be unique, but it is heartfelt and instantly engaging, with songs like Canopy getting plenty of people on their feet and dancing in the midday sun. His cover of Led Zeppelin’s Lemon Song is a force of nature that must be heard to be believed.

She may have demons lurking in her dark corners, but onstage BETH HART is never less than completely commanding and a riveting frontwoman. Possessing an enormous voice full of soulful blues and backed by a band on fire, hers is one of the standout sets of the day. At times reminiscent of the ‘60s greats like Darlene Love or Mavis Staples, Hart’s Bang Bang Boom Boom, the title track of her released-in-two-weeks new album Better Than Home, Sister Heroin and Zeppelinesque blues stomper Sinner’s Prayer make for a great hour under the Big Top Tent, before she finishes up with My California, dedicated with love and pride to husband Scott, who is never far from her side.

CHARLES BRADLEY brought his Extraordinaires and a very welcome dose of soul power to Fremantle, channelling ‘60s Booker T & The MGs R&B and early James Brown in equal measure, not to mention some funky dance moves. ‘The screaming eagle of soul’ and his band are in the pocket from the moment they take the stage and by the way he flirts with the crowd like a cat playing with a mouse, you know he’s having as much fun as we are listening, especially through If You Aren’t Gonna Do Me Right… I Might Just Do You In and Lovin’ You Baby.

What can one write about MAVIS STAPLES to do her justice? The 75-year old legendary gospel soul singer still has the vocal power to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and she works the crowd like a master, coaxing roars of approving crowd participation. The Staples Singers 1971 classic I’ll Take You There is astonishingly moving: a testament to the spiritual power of great music.

We’re more used to seeing XAVIER RUDD in his one-man-band configuration, but he’s in Freo today with an uber-multicultural troupe called the UNITED NATIONS. Rudd’s new band adds textured beats and a groove to his rootsy reggae-folk songs to get the hippies on their feet shaking their moneymakers, while we found Food In The Belly and Follow The Sun to be a perfectly mellow soundtrack for an interlude in the brand spanking new Blues & Roots wine & tapas tent bar. (Our tip: barramundi & dill croquettes, freshly shucked oysters and champagne)

At 63 KEB’ MO’ has the handsome features of a forty year old, but his music rings with much more life experience indeed. Blues tunes flecked with soul and country are his stock-in-trade, and he delighted the Big Top Tent with a masterful set that sizzled with the power of his highly emotive guitar playing.

PAUL KELLY brought the full Merri Soul Sessions shebang to Fremantle, with no less than six singers rotating through a set of new and old hits. Australia’s finest storyteller took the mic for his own Who’s Gonna Make The Gravy, while Dan Sultan lent an stomping R&B groove to Looks So Fine, Feel So Low. With singers the calibre of Kelly, Sultan, Clairy Browne, Vika & Linda Bull and Kira Puru, there’s no way his set was going to be any less than awesome, and a bouncy Dumb Things and the joyous spiritual Hasn’t It Rained – featuring all the aforementioned vocalists – had young and old dancing and singing the afternoon away.

RODRIGO Y GABRIELA’s technical artistry is astonishing – they are unofficial leaders of the new-flamenco movement – and they combine that with such melodic and percussive magic that their set is a joyous occasion. Just two acoustic guitars – that’s it! – yet their sound is the equivalent of any full band, and the capacity crowd under the Big Top Tent were transfixed and/or dancing throughout – which is more than you can say about most acoustic duos (or rock bands, for that matter). Mind you – very few acoustic duos can claim Metallica, Slayer and Led Zeppelin as primary influences, not to mention some of their members as friends.

DAVID GRAY seemed to engender a strong reaction from the main stage, delivering a set of folky pop that many danced and sung along to. As eclectic as 100% ROCK’s tastes are, we still find Gray’s dreamy soundscapes a bit bland, without much to distinguish them from each other, but his fans – and there were plenty of them – obviously enjoyed themselves.

Arguably more than any act on the bill today, JIMMY CLIFF embodies the spirit of the Blues & Roots Festival. The greatest reggae artist alive, Cliff’s shows are a celebration of music, peace, love and joy – all the messages that the Festival embodies – and today is no exception, with the master delivering as set of classics including an early You Can Get It If You Really Want, Treat You Right, Cat Stevens’ Wild World, I Can See Clearly – the Johnny Nash song Cliff recorded for the movie Cool Runnings, “the song that brought reggae music to the world” The Harder They Come, and Many Rivers To Cross.

Scotsman PAOLO NUTINI won over legions of new fans with a set of soulful rock n’ roll that revolved around his sultry vocals, not to mention a charismatic presence that ensured plenty of young females in front of the stage.

JURASSIC 5’s hip hop stood out from the rest of the bluesy, rootsy, reggae and soul acts on the bill, but the tent was filled with people chasing a slice of the less ordinary, and these veterans delivered with some of the sick beats they’re reknowned for,

Any return of The JOHN BUTLER TRIO to their old stomping ground of Fremantle is met with a special kind of parochial fervour, just as any Butler set is likely to follow a similar theme – so there was jamming, there was some anti-political sloganeering, and then there was a slew of favourites such as Better Than, Used To Get High and Zebra. The Fremantle crowd didn’t seem to mind, though, and round these parts he will likely always be treated as a favourite adopted son.

GEORGE CLINTON & PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC took the 2015 West Coast Blues & Roots Festival to the finish line with set of psych funk from the 73-year-old madcat and his enormous troupe of musicians, dancers, backing singers and whoever else was up there on the crowded stage. The man who has done more than just about anyone to extend the realms of funk into rock and rap and more over forty years delivered a set that was as mind-melting visually as it was musically.
And so there goes another West Coast Blues & Roots Festival. It was all about the singers this year: Beth Hart, Jimmy Cliff, Mavis Staples, Paul Kelly & his crew of friends, George Clinton, Paolo Nutini… the biggest bummer being that we now have to wait twelve months to do it all again.

Portions of this review were originally published in X-Press Magazine’s 1 April, 2015 issue

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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