July 5 at Orange
Borrowing a fitted navy military jacket from the wardrobe of Coldplay's Chris Martin Bobby Womack looked every bit the band general in his return to the Orange Stage. Acting as both a composer and the leading soul of the show, he constantly introduced new musicians to the fore, giving playing time to each of his ensemble with sections of alto, tenor and baritone saxophones and drum solos. Now aged 69, Womack did seem ever so slightly frail and moving about the stage with caution but he still hosts a voice that echoes the great history of a nomadic performer.
Breaking out with a series of uppity, happy?go?lucky funk improvisations and repeated cries of uplifting graces like "let’s party tonight", "come together" and "raise your hands", it didn’t take much to get the lolling, skantily-clad fanfare to raise to their feet.
But for the most part, this was a fairly low-key affair. While those who were standing barely broke out into a collective sway, the large majority of the Orange audience sat or laid stretched out on the lush meadows safe in the security of Womack’s echo passively soaking up the band’s feel good streams of funk. With appearances from practically every instrument ever affiliated with funk and soul, Womack and his pals coasted through a compilation of no less than twelve numbers, keeping up the energy levels right until the end.
But for those less charmed by the grace of funk it was possible to imagine yourself being dragged through one long history lesson, tediously having to listen to what’s been done again and again. And to some degree the audience, even on the periphery of the pit, weren’t fully engaged and simply waiting it out under blue skies for the act that they paid to see, Rihanna.
Although funk has never been exactly known for its deep lyrics and unpredictability, Womack put his shoulder to the wheel unifying the very best of what people would expect from a funk concert. Plenty of snapping fingers, backing vocals harping out "yeahs" and "c'mon", and plenty of evidence that Womack had thoroughly warmed up his larynx.