A weekend of glorious weather and a near-capacity crowd made for a successful WOMAD NZ 2008 festival at New Plymouth's BrooklandsParkand TSB Bowl.
Ticket sales for Saturday were around 11,000, compared to 12,500 on the Saturday of last year's event. Festival organisers say that figure exceeds expectations, especially as WOMAD NZ is now an annual event. Previously it was held every two years.
Over 400 international and local musicians performed, including SJD, The Phoenix Foundation, Malian kora player Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra, and local blues legend Midge Marsden. Russia's Terem Quartet interpreted classical compositions aided by a giant double bass balalaika, and Zach Condon's Beirut performed a gentle, often mournful set of European folk-informed pop, his eight piece band constantly swapping brass and reed instruments to replicate a mini orchestral feel.
Legendary soul singer Mavis Staples sang Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth and the gospel standard Wade in the Water before drifting into Staples Singers' soul hits Respect Yourself and I'll Take You There.
But Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings quickly established themselves as the crowd favourite on Saturday, stomping through an incendiary set of 60s style soul-funk and leaving the audience screaming for more.
Eight piece backing band The Dap-Kings came on in true soul revue style, wearing 1960s suits and skinny ties. They threw down a fast-paced, funky instrumental before their in-house MC and guitarist Binky Griptite welcomed the "Queen of Funk" onto the stage.
Once there, Jones prowled the stage, looking dangerous and singing up a storm. She danced and gyrated with various members of the audience, working her way through selections from the band's three albums, and focusing mostly on material from their 2007 release 100 Days, 100 Nights.
On Friday night Jones appeared onstage during Mavis Staples' encore song, and was enthusiastically endorsed by the veteran performer.
WOMAD wound up yesterday with performances from Brazilian samba-rockers Clube de Balanco, Israeli crooner David D'Or, and chart-topping Aotearoa band Kora. Other highlights from Sunday night were a crowd-pleasing solo set from Neil Finn, who stepped in at the 11th hour to replace Cesaria Evora, and the spectacular return performance from Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. "Gala", an all star ensemble of festival musicians led by Don McGlashan, drew the event to a close.