Bluesfest 2024 – Saturday March 30 & Sunday March 31, 2024

Review by Nick Corr. Photos by Steve Ford. [Galleries below].

Jess Hitchcock during Rockwiz at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Rockwiz on Saturday and Sunday has become a Bluesfest institution with many attendees coming early just to see Brian and Julia and the Rockwiz Orchestra. Guests this year included Jess Hitchcock who gave a brilliant performance of Sia’s “Chandelier” and Matt Taylor from Chain who performed “Black & Blue” and “I Remember When I Was Young”. Hayley Mary did a great version of “Nothing Compares to You” in tribute to Sinead O’Conner. While Mahalia Barnes popped in to perform her dad’s Cold Chisel classic “When the War Is Over”. The show closed with Didirri and Jess Hitchcock duetting on Wings “Band On The Run”.

Ian Moss Live at Bluesfest 2025. Photo by Steve Ford.

Ian Moss opened his Saturday evening show with a couple of songs from his debut album Matchbook “Such a Beautiful Thing” and “Out of the Fire”. Quickly moving onto his latest album Rivers Run Dry he performed “Open Your Eyes” and the Troy Cassar-Daley co-write “Nullabor Plain”. Dipping into his Cold Chisel repertoire “Never Before” gave Mossy a chance to let rip a great guitar solo, while “Choir Girl” and “My Baby” got the Mojo tent singing along. Another double shot from Matchbook “Telephone Booth” followed by “Tucker’s Daughter”. Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind”, a regular Cold Chisel cover, gave each of the band members a time to solo. Mossy has an impressive band around him with guitarist Ollie Thorpe a standout with a tasteful solo on the show closing “Bow River”.

Next up on the Mojo stage was The Cruel Sea.  Always a tight live band, having recently completed The Honeymoon Is Over 30th Anniversary tour, the band is match fit and ready to go. Opening with the instrumental “4” with Matt Walker pulling double duty on acoustic guitar and organ. Front-man Tex Perkins joins them for “It’s Alright (Cause She Loves Me)” before the band blast through a fantastic set, drawn heavily from The Honeymoon is Over including: the title track, “Delivery Man” with some slinky bass from Ken Gormley, Tony Joe White’s “Women With Soul”, and a fantastic “Black Stick”. It was also great to hear “Too Fast For Me” and “Better Get A Lawyer” with slide guitar from Dan Rumour. Another instrumental “The Drift” from their debut album Down Below is performed before Tex returns to close the show on a high point with “Black Stick” and “The Honeymoon Is Over”, finishing with the more low-key “This is Not The Way Home”.

PJ Morton Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Keyboardist / singer PJ Morton had the Crossroads tent dancing for his Saturday evening show included a soulful cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring it On Home to Me” and the ridiculously catchy “Good Morning”. Sunday’s show featured “Be Like Water” and a cover of The Bee Gee’s “How Deep Is Your Love?”. Both shows closed with an extended “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” with gospel vibes that saw PJ preaching to the crowd.

Headlining the main Crossroads stage on Saturday night was Sir Tom Jones, currently

Tom Jones Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Alex Hallag.

touring the country on his Ages and Stages tour.  He opens accompanied by just a keyboard player for “I’m Growing Old” before leading into a surprisingly up tempo take of Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet”, both mediations on ageing from his latest album Surrounded By Time. The show sees Tom Jones leading the audience through his career, so the crowd was somewhat surprised to hear his first and second singles “It’s Not Unusual” and “What’s New Pussycat” played very early in the show, before he moved onto later hits like “Sexbomb”, “Deliliah” and closing with his cover of Prince’s “Kiss”.

Taj Mahal and his Sextet had a relaxed Sunday afternoon performance on The Crossroads stage. His well received show included the 12-bar blues “See See Rider Blues”, “Fishin Blues” and “Mailbox Blues”, the later of which is included on his most recent album Swingin’ Live at the Church in Tulsa.

Jimmy Barnes Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Jeff Dawson.

Making his first live performance since undergoing open-heart surgery last December, Jimmy Barnes put on a guest filled Sunday evening performance on the Mojo stage. The first show of a national theatre tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of his 1993 “unplugged” release Flesh and Wood most of the show was drawn from that record. Opening with “Working Class Man” before moving onto Flesh and Wood with “You Can’t Make Love Without a Soul” and “Fade to Black”. Tommy Emmanuel joining for “Brother of Mine” as he did on the original record. Jimmy’s daughter Elly-May Barnes subbed in for her Uncle Diesel by duetting with her dad on “Still Got A Long Way To Go”. It was also great to hear the somber “We Could Be Gone” originally recorded with Archie Roach. Bryon Bay local Bernard Fanning received a rapturous reception when he joined to duet on “Still On Your Side”. The band was augmented by a horn section for a fun rockabilly run through of Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover”. Josh Teskey joined to duet on “The Weight”. To close out the show, Cold Chisel bandmate Ian Moss joined to run through Cold Chisel’s “When the War Is Over”, “Flame Trees” and “Khe Sahn”.

Peter Garrett Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Jeff Dawson

Having just completed a national tour in support of his second solo album The True NorthMidnight Oil front-man Peter Garrett and The Alter Egos are in great form. Featuring Midnight Oils Martin Rotsey on guitar, Heather Shannon (The Jezabels) on keys and two of Peter’s daughters, May and Grace on backing vocals, the set focused mostly on the new record, opening with the title track, “Paddo” with its stop start rhythms, and the rockabilly “Hey Archetype”. “Innocent Parts 1 & 2” features Freya Schack-Arnott on cello. It was also good to hear “It Still Matters” from his first solo album A Version of Now. Throughout the show Garrett does dip back into his Oils catalogue for “Brave Faces” from 1981s Place Without a Postcard, “Beds Are Burning” is slowed to half pace as a menacing ballad, “Dreamworld” and a show closing “The Dead Heart”.

Josh Teskey Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

The Teskey Brothers drew a huge crowd for their headline set on the Mojo stage on Sunday night. Opening with a cover of Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” that took full advantage of their two-piece horn section. They moved straight into “Man of the Universe” from 2019’s Run Home Slow. Later in the show they were joined by Kasey Chambers for a new song “Fine Without You”.

Closing out Sunday night on The Crossroads stage was festival favorite Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals. Harper first appeared at the festival in 1996 and by my count this year is his 19th appearance at Bluesfest. Opening with Bloodline Maintenance’s “Below Sea Level” before moving into “Diamonds On the Inside” with Harper channeling his inner Aretha Franklin for some great vocal breaks.

Ben Harper Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Having seen Ben Harper solo last year, it was great to see him with the band adding different textures like the reggae infused “Finding Our Way”. The two hour show also included “Burn to Shine”, “Don’t Give Up On Me Now”, “Mama’s Trippin”, “Steal My Kisses” and a cover of Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah”.