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by Paula Towers
posted 06/04/2018

Bluesfest 2018 Music Highlights

Eastside FM volunteer Paula Towers was one of thousands who attended this year’s Bluesfest musical feast held over Easter at Byron Bay. She outlines some highlights.

CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers

Image: Marc Stapelberg

Ageless Nile Rodgers – at 65 years young and having survived two battles with cancer – burns up the dance floor with the energy of someone half his age. As he recounted to the audience how a local paper referred to Chic as ‘a covers band’, he feigned indignity – amusingly declaring: “I wrote all those hits!” And numerous they are – as well as the soundtrack for many a (misspent) youth. With pop hits such as “Le Freak” and “Get Lucky”, this multi-award winning composer, arranger and guitarist, has produced for Diana Ross, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, INXS and Madonna as well as collaborated with Sam Smith, Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk. No surprise that this music legend had the crowd on their feet and a perfect lead in to the next performer, Lionel.

Lionel Richie

“Gonna see Lionel? Better get in early!” was the cry around BluesFest. Not really requiring an intro, music icon Lionel Richie’s exhaustive list of achievements include 100 million albums sold worldwide, Oscar, five-time Grammy and Golden Globe winner as well as 16-time American Music Award winner and World Music Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Opening to “Hello?!” the crowd roared its appreciation of this international superstar and sprung up as one, jiving to “Dancing on the Ceiling”. Accompanying a friend in the disabled area, I noticed the patrons there couldn’t help but join in; though mainly seated, they shook walking sticks rhythmically in the air, to the hypnotic music beat.

Decked out in a sparkly red-sequinned jacket, Richie was the consummate entertainer, plying the audience with stories and delivering on his promise to perform all his hits so we danced “All Night Long”.

Featuring such classics as “Endless Love”, as well as Commodores songs including “Three Times A Lady”, retro lighting and graphics reminiscent of the disco era accompanied a large glitter ball at one stage, which threw its shimmering reflections over the crowd leading into the finale, “We Are The World”, written with ‘his good friend, the late, great Michael Jackson’, noted Richie, as the audience swayed, using their mobile phone torches as candles in tribute to these musical maestros.

First Aid Kit

Move over ABBA, the latest Swedish group making international waves, First Aid Kit, was a roaring success at BluesFest 2018. Though performing on the busiest day, Sunday April 1, and competing with headline acts, First Aid Kit attracted a capacity crowd.

Politics accompanied charm as they referenced the #metoo movement, entreating the many males in the audience to support its sentiments which met with as much enthusiastic cheering and applause as their fantastic line-up of tracks, described as modern folk and Indie.

Though only recent performers in Oz, the Soderberg sisters, Johanna and Klara, launched their group 10 years ago as a teenaged duo in Stockholm, almost immediately winning over an enormous following as well as millions of YouTube fans.

FAK’s second album Lion’s Roar debuted at No#1 in Sweden and it has performed for Glastonbury and the Newport Folk Festival. As well as opening for Rodriguez at Radio Music Hall, FAK has featured on Conan, Letterman, Graham Norton and The Ellen De Generes Shows.

Rounding out its music, the band now performs with a drummer, guitarist and keyboard player, and its popular song “My Silver Lining” – one of the singles that won it the Composer of the Year prize in 2014 from the Swedish Music Publishers Association – was definitely a BluesFest crowd favourite. This band is certainly one to watch!

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