Live music review: Westport Festival

Westport, Co Mayo

****

Although it’s conceived as a festival of music and food, the majority of punters strolling around the grounds of Westport House last weekend didn’t really care a sausage for the festival’s more culinary dimensions. Most were there for the music bill which — in its broad, unfussy way — included Bryan Adams, Kool and the Gang, Shane Filan, Sinead O’Connor, David Gray, and the Divine Comedy.

The mix of indie-rock and mainstream nostalgia brought together a nicely varied, family-friendly crowd, and it made for a pleasant laid-back vibe over the course of two days of bounteous sunshine.

The highlight of Saturday was The Divine Comedy’s headline show in the Marquee tent. It was the first time in five years that Neil Hannon had performed with a full band and it made for considerable gaiety, Hannon playing in the wrong key to his accomplices at one point and forgetting the words at others. Aside from such entertaining mishaps, it was a glorious set. Hannon aired out a few rare gems from his 1994 masterpiece Promenade, among them The Summerhouse and the imperious Tonight We Fly. Other standouts were a run-through of Our Mutual Friend, complete with cello accompaniment, and Lucy, Songs of Love, and A Lady of a Certain Age.

Sunday’s bill was the more populist one, with the hordes getting there early on to grab their spot for headliner Bryan Adams. Sophie Ellis Bextor (inset, above) put people in good form with her catchy earworm brand of disco-pop, as did Kool and the Gang later on. Malian group Tinariwen nonchalantly stole the day with their Saharan music, while Sinead O’Connor was also in fine fettle, banging out combative and emotive numbers (No Man’s Woman, I Had a Baby) and delivering a disarming rendition of Nothing Compares to U.


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