When Soulfest was initially announced, many thought it was too good to be true. When the tour kicked off in Sydney, the event was met with a few hiccups, but ultimately, the talent on show made the day more than worthwhile.
The first international to hit the main stage was Leela James, but before she did, Michael Duchesne kept the early attendees entertained with his sweet crooning and guitar skills. When Leela finally came out, it was clear things were about to get real.
James moved across the stage with gusto, performing hits like ‘Good Time’ and the powerful ‘Music’, before passionately proclaiming, “Soul music is alive!” Known to perform push-ups onstage, she was nothing less than thrilling.
Leela was followed by the electrifying Gang of Brothers, who kept things up-tempo and light hearted as they introduced their song ‘I Don’t Want You No More’. Impressing with tight drumming skills and slick bass lines, they made the transition to Anthony Hamilton a smooth one.
Before Hamilton hit the stage however, his back up singers and band ignited the crowd with their supercharged choreography. When the man himself finally came out, he greeted the audience with a few sweet dance moves of his own.
Anthony and his band were a joy to watch as they danced and hey harmonised flawlessly while exuding lots of charisma. A definite highlight of the set was ‘Mama knew love’, which pushed the exhilaration to new heights.
Back on the Spotify stage, Thandiwe Phoenix arrived with an air of quiet confidence. Rocking aqua green curls and a jumpsuit for the ages, she moved the crowd with her poignant lyricism and message of loving oneself in order to achieve ultimate happiness.
The green outfits didn’t end with Phoenix, as soul veteran Angie Stone stepped out in a floor length dress accented with lime coloured patterns. Stone pulled out classics like ‘Everyday’ and ‘No More Rain’ while also spitting some rhymes for good measure. Rounding off her set with a rousing rendition of ‘Wish I Didn’t Miss You’ complete with reggae and Latin flavours, Angie Stone made it clear she was a pro amongst pros.
Musiq Soulchild‘s turn was plagued by weak sound that had him drowned out by the backing track. At least he looked dapper in his smart grey suit and sunglasses, and nothing would take that away from him. Singing favourites like ‘For The Night’ and ‘Luvubetter’, Musiq managed to persevere.
After Soulchild left the stage, it was up to Ms Murphy to set things back on track. An authoritative presence and scorching vocals lifted the crowd as Murphy and her backing singers put the soul back into Soulfest.
Things only picked up from there as Aloe Blac got the crowd pumped with ‘I Need a Dollar’. When Maya Jupiter came on stage to drop a few rhymes, the excite-o-meter shot up even higher.
Hands were waving the in air, people were dancing, and all was dandy. When Aloe wrapped up, Nathaniel came out and impressed with his falsetto on ‘You’ before whipping out his guitar to show the world how multi-talented he was.
Finally, Common hit the main stage. His energy and impassioned rhymes were extraordinary to witness and it was clear that he meant business. He even busted out a freestyle that shouted out fans from Western Sydney, which was met with a roar of cheers. The grandiosity of Common‘s set was astounding as not only did he bless the crowd with tracks like ‘Black Majik’ and ‘Come Close’, he also allowed his DJ to show off some amazing tricks on his decks. That being said, it would have been nice if it all didn’t cut into Ngaiire’s set.
Without further delay, Ngaiire and her amazingly dressed band had no trouble eclipsing everything around them. The Spotify stage, now covered in a blue hue, took on an otherworldly feel as the electronic blips of ‘Rabbit Hole’ emanated from the speakers. A spell had been cast, and Ngaiire mesmerised the crowd. ‘Dirty Hercules’, ‘Fireflies’ and ‘Uranus’ played out like haunting lullabies, and once it was all over, it was evident that everyone had just been in the presence of a star.
By the time D’angelo came out the sun had descended and everyone was more than ready to be seduced. Rocking a silver guitar, the enigmatic soul star seamlessly shifted from funk to rock to neo-soul and blessed the audience with cuts like ‘Left & Right’ and ‘Send It On’. Yes, the sound could have been a lot better, but seeing D’angelo in the flesh was impressive all the same.
Looking regal and sounding like he descended from the clouds above, Maxwell arrived to close the festival out in style. His brand of sophisticated soul made love to the ears of everyone present and as he performed gems like ‘Everwanting’ and ‘Sumthin Sumthin’ fans could do nothing but watch in awe.
Despite the many sound complaints that arose during Sydney’s Soulfest, the quality of music the organisers brought to the people was nothing less than world class. If the technical issues can be erased next time round, it should prove even more successful. Here’s hoping for an equally exciting line up next year.