Xavier Rudd | 01.29.08 | New York

Words & Images by: JC McIlwaine

Xavier Rudd :: 01.29.08 :: Nokia Theatre :: New York, NY

Xavier Rudd :: 01.29 :: NYC
The lights dimmed in the Nokia Theatre as the house music faded, replaced by the throbbing vibration coursing out of an invisible didgeridoo. The curtains parted and the crowd cheered as Dave Tolley sat down at his drum kit and struck up a pulsing beat. The applause grew to a crescendo as Xavier Rudd stepped onstage, seating himself in the midst of his elaborate instrument set-up. Rudd added his guitar and didg to the mix as he and Tolley worked their way through a jam that launched into "G.B.A.," a rhythmic attack of a song from Solace. As the crowd rocked to the heavy beat, Rudd sang with his focused intensity:

"These egos and minds and games / With all their power could end our days / Still the sun it shines / And the moon it sinks with grace / It's such a shame that all this shit exists / Here on this Earth, this magical place."

Much like his compatriots John Butler and Michael Franti, Xavier Rudd is an artist who believes in using the power of his music as a vehicle to drive change. His lyrics offer critiques of governmental corruption and corporate greed, condemn the foolishness of militaristic zealotry and raise awareness of environmental and human rights issues in Australia and around the world. Yet in the end, Xavier Rudd doesn't preach or proselytize so much as he inspires.

"What I have could be a message / Or just some words from my heart," he sang in "Better People," a song from his new album, White Moth, played early in the set. Rudd went on to highlight his respect for those making a positive impact on the world around them, singing, "Them giving food to the hungry / Giving hope to the needy / Giving life to a baby / Giving care for free / 'Cause there is freedom around us / We have everything we need / And I will care for you / Because you care for me."

Looker, Rudd, Tolley :: 01.29
Simply put, Rudd makes an appeal to the better qualities of love and compassion in all of us, encouraging us to use whatever means we may have at our disposal to work for good in the same way that he does with his music. As evidenced by his ever-growing audience and increasingly sold-out shows, this positive message resonates with many listeners.

Aside from his lyrics, the sharpest arrow in Rudd's quiver is his instrumentation. His onstage musical kit looks like something you might insert a quarter into and step back from, watching with wonder as it plays itself. Three didgeridoos (called yidakis by the Aboriginals in his native Australia), Rudd's calling card, serve as the centerpiece, surrounded by percussion instruments on all sides: toms and a whole host of other drums, cymbals, a high hat, chimes and even a gong. To this Rudd adds guitar and slide guitar, as well as his signature stomp-box on which he keeps the beat when he's not playing the didg or singing or playing harmonica!

Xavier Rudd could easily be described as a one-man-band, and he's surely capable of, and accustomed to, playing alone. But, from watching Rudd play with others at this show, it's apparent that he revels in the act of joint musical creation. Rudd and Tolley went so deep on songs like "Footprint" and "Message Stick," getting lost in a pulse-raising maze of drums, didg, guitar and recorded chants, that the rhythms approached a hypnotic state. The two looked over frequently to check in with each other, obviously getting off when they really locked into a solid groove.

When roadie and friend James Looker joined the two onstage with his banjo to play "Energy Song" from the album Food in the Belly, Rudd stepped off to the side, letting Looker soak up the spotlight for a moment. He watched from the shadows, playing his guitar and smiling. Finally, to bring the night to a close, the opening musician Mishka joined them for a cover of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry." In that moment, with Rudd and Mishka singing the affirmation "Everything's gonna be alright," you'd have been hard-pressed to find anyone in the audience who didn't believe it.

Xavier Rudd :: 01.29 :: NYC
JamBase | Grande Pomme
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[Published on: 2/15/08]

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Gregorie starstarstarstar Fri 2/15/2008 03:23PM
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Nice article. I'm glad to see Xavier is finally getting the proper respect. I saw him for the first at Bonnaroo '05 3 rows back on the Sonic Stage and the performance gave me the chills. I've seen him 3 times since, and each time the opening of the drone of the didg grabs everyone's attention and the audience is treated to a glimpse into the mind and soul of Xavier. The energy of his live act is amazing and one cannot properly judge Xavier based on studio work. He is definitely an artist that needs to be seen live in order to appreciate his work. XAVIER @ ALL GOOD '08 PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Derekmk Fri 2/15/2008 03:35PM
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Yeah no kidding..all who left All Good early in '06 missed one of the best and most memorable sets of the weekend!! It was quite an experience to hear Xavier perform outside with the sun beating down on you..I won't forget it. There's a recording of that set up on Archive, but it's not that great..still waiting to stumble across a better one. Bring Xavier back for '08!

Greatwaves Fri 2/15/2008 06:55PM
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yeah that x rudd set at allgood 06 was one of three times ive cried at a show, it was so moving, he is the bomb, id see him anytime,and anywhere if you dontlike him you have no business in this socially conscious scene, plus he rocks live and you definatly can move your feet to his beats

gabrielle starstarstarstar Fri 2/15/2008 09:45PM
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Really nice shots!

Muffinman1 Sat 2/16/2008 06:13AM
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One of the best acts I've ever see, saw him on a walk by at Roo in 04 and didn't continue walking. I missed Yonder and didn't even give a shit. I've seen him probably 5 times since then. Great live show, you gotta see him.

chetzel69 starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/16/2008 09:07AM
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Its about time he is really getting some regonition. He made me want to go to Australia even more than I already did. When I did go about a year ago, seeing him in Byron Bay at Blues and Roots Festival was the best of his 10 shows that I've seen by far. Him in his own element was the most unbeliveable show that I've ever seen. Keeping JAMMING the Peaceful LOVE to everyone Xavier. Peace Out

TheLOCH starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/16/2008 12:56PM
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Finally got to see this beautiful earth/everything loving son-of-a-bitch and it was phenomenal!!! One of the best if not the best show I've been to. Just really glad he came to the east coast (US) so I could groove on his rhythyms in person. Like I said Great show, love Xavier's spirit and how it flows into his music and how it stays with you. Just a feeling you wanna share.....awesome. Thank you Xavier!!

rybeor Sat 2/16/2008 05:46PM
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All Good 08'! I'll second that.

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Sun 2/17/2008 05:03AM
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this guy is amazing. I have seen him at hornings hideout in 2004---it was raining and people were still getting down. And I saw him last year here in Austin. The second time around I think i enjoyed the show more just because I was familiar with more of his songs. This guy is truly a badass and with Wolfmother and John Butler Trio Australia has certainly exported some big time talent these last 10 years or so.

Deadphishbiscuits Mon 2/18/2008 08:54AM
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Hell yeah definatly good to see Mr.Rudd getting some big upps. First time I saw Xavier was in Buffalo in between sets at a moe show what a treat. definatly an artist if you have not heard/seen definatly look into great article and a good show to one and all

UmphNugget starstarstarstar Mon 2/18/2008 12:57PM
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I was at the show..had primo seats, own personal bathroom and bartender in the VIP section..crowd was young, but tottaly worth the travel time it took.

always_high Wed 2/20/2008 08:29AM
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Sounds like a great show Xavier Rudd has been one of my favorite artists since I saw him at All Good back in 06. I hope he gets signed for 08 as well. The combination of his message and pure musical talent are so amazing that I look forward to what he has to bring us in the future All Good or not.

maverick6100 starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/25/2008 04:48PM
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i was at that show...it was REALLY young i felt like i was at a moe. or OAR show....wish more family showed up like when i saw him three years ago in nyc. besides that the encore was awesome. Next time i hope its 21+