John Butler performed solo in the Plenary Theatre. The Doobie Brothers provided their own smooth grooves, including Take Me In Your Arms, Listen To the Music, and What a Fool Believes.
Earlier on Saturday, Australian country music star Kasey Chambers and her band played the Plenary stage, where the multiple ARIA Award winner was all smiles during an hour-long show, featuring hits from across her many albums.
“This is my perfect musical festival,” Chambers told the audience. “This has no mud. It’s indoors, in a beautiful theatre … we’re playing at 3.30 and I can be home in bed by eight o’clock tonight.”
Also staged across the Easter long weekend was sister event Bluesfest in Byron Bay, first held in 1990. In February, Bluesfest director Peter Noble defended his decision to add controversial Sydney band Sticky Fingers to the Byron Bay line-up. The band, fronted by Dylan Frost, was later removed from the line-up, after other artists pulled out of the Byron Bay festival.
Unlike the sprawling Byron Bay festival site at Tyagarah, or the picturesque outdoor Supernatural Amphitheatre at Meredith Music Festival, Melbourne’s newest festival merges large-scale indoor shows with comfortable seating and dining away from the stages.
Other artists performing at Byron Bay and Melbourne included Keb’ Mo, Kaleo, Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, Southern Avenue and Australian bluesman Frank Sultana, who recently won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.
Russell Morris paid tribute to the late Australian soul singer Renee Geyer, whose memorial service was held at St Kilda’s National Theatre last week. “I’ll try and sing Renee’s part,” Morris said, introducing The Drifter, from his acclaimed 2012 album Sharkmouth.
Echoing day one, there was barely a ripple of atmosphere as patrons filed indoors on Sunday. Whatever it lacked on the vibe meter, Bluesfest Melbourne made up for with excellent sound quality and sight lines. In another bonus, queues for food and drinks were short.
American bluesman Buddy Guy’s last Australian show lit up the stage, from his opening song Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues to flashes of Hendrix, Clapton and John Lee Hooker.
Lucinda Williams, back on stage after suffering a stroke in 2020, was a huge drawcard. In one of the weekend’s truly feel-good moments, Williams was joined by Steve Earle for a couple of songs, including You’re Still Standin’ There, which they first recorded together in 1996.
Earlier on Sunday, Earle played a solo set that featured a rousing version of his 1988 hit Copperhead Road and a cover of Harlem River Blues, which his late son Justin Townes Earle recorded in 2009.
Local twelve-piece band FOOLS and CW Stoneking each drew enthusiastic crowds on Sunday, while veteran Australian blues and rock band Chain closed the Naarm stage in style.
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