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28 juillet 2007

Gabriel thrills WOMAD crowd

Peter Gabriel thrilled last night's enormous WOMAD crowd with a stunning set that went on into the late hours. The co-founder of the festival returned to the stage to mark the event's 25th anniversary. An array of special guests, including the Zawose Family, Daby Touré and Kong Nay, joined him on stage throughout.

"It was 25 years since we started this whole thing off, so we wanted to try and do a few things to make it a landmark, so I was resurrected," said Mr Gabriel. The former Genesis legend played a high-octane hour-and-a-half set, which included many of his old favourites. He left the huge, energetic crowd begging for more, especially after firing out two of his solo classics, Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer, back-to-back.

Sarah Penhaligon, who has made the trip from Cornwall for the festival, said: "With all the different guests he had on stage there was a real magic to it - it was very special." John Merriman, 27, of Moredon, London, said: "It was a first-class performance. It was great, he did all his big hits and he was awesome." Mr Merriman's brother Philip, 20, added: "It was absolutely fantastic. It's the first gig of his I've been to and it was incredible - I'm converted." Their dad David, 59, said: "There are lots of things I am trying to do before I am 60 and this was my first live concert, and it was a great way to start."

Other highlights of the day included Jamaica's "godfather of soul" Toots and the Maytals, who lit up the main stage in the afternoon. Toots, the first man to use the word "reggae", gave his thoughts on WOMAD and its ethos backstage after his performance "I love it," he said. "You have just got to live good and be loving to each other." Mexican singer Lila Downs also put on an eyecatching display on the main stage yesterday evening to precede Mr Gabriel.

The performances were all a welcome distraction from the ever-worsening mud at Charlton Park. Tractors have been busy pulling cars out, while an ambulance even became stuck in the main arena yesterday afternoon. Revellers are having to trudge through pools of mud as they attempt to navigate their way round the festival.

WOMAD co-founder and artistic director Thomas Brooman said: "This weekend has been really hit hard by the weather. It's been so cruel to us." However, the majority of people are doing their best to make the most out of a bad situation.

Susan Hall, 37, of Bournemouth, said: "It is pretty bad in a lot of places and moving around can be a little difficult. But it could be worse and everyone's in the same boat. If anything, it has almost made the atmosphere even better."

With a sunny forecast for today and the prospect if Isaac Hayes performing tonight the WOMAD crowd look to be in for a great day.

Article by Gordon Simpson, pictures by Diane Vose

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