Words & Images by: JC McIlwaine
Xavier Rudd :: 01.29.08 :: Nokia Theatre :: New York, NY
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."
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.
|Looker, Rudd, Tolley :: 01.29|
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.
JamBase | Grande Pomme
|Xavier Rudd :: 01.29 :: NYC|
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