Before the show, I asked someone "who is Xavier Rudd?"
“He's insane. And Australian. So it's the good kind of insane.” Was the answer.
Rudd is among those rare musicians whose music you cannot describe with a genre label, because he's invented his own. All parts of reggae, electronica, folk, rock, and Aboriginal spiritual, to name a few.
Xavier Rudd played at the Olympic Hall on Cunard St. in Halifax this passed Thursday to a packed house of all types. Mohawks, sundresses, business casual, and beards that haven't seen a razor in years. The tension in the crowd was palpable as a ten minute track of bass level beats grew with intensity over an empty stage. When he finally emerged, he was greeted with the kind of furor reserved for musicians accustomed to playing much larger venues.
The musical setup on stage was a dizzying array of didgeridoos, drums of all kinds, bells, a harmonica, and stringed instruments. While he had great support from another drummer on stage with him, it's clear that Xavier Rudd is a one man band.
|Xavier Rudd (left) with his hard to name drummer|
I was introduced to his music by a friend and had been thoroughly impressed. Great music to work or relax to. But it is a rare thing for a performer to be better live than in studio. He gave samplings from all of his work and albums, moving from rock infused songs like 'Footprint', to melancholic yet hopeful solos like 'EnergySong'.
Clearly in the zone, he gave genuine surprise when the slowest song of the night was greeted with a near frantic and totally deafening cheer from the crowd. To almost everyone in the room, Xavier Rudd is a man who understands.
The Olympic Hall is a high school gym sized place with a second floor balcony that stretches around the outskirts of the room. It has a great 1950s vibe to it. By the time he was half way into his set, the center of the crowd gave off a familiar intoxicating aroma, and Xavier Rudd said “Halifax, I like the way you smell.”
Between songs he would either stop and casually engage the crowd as an equal, or later as a minister giving a sermon, asking for thanks to Mother Earth. After a brain jarring five minute demand by the crowd for an encore, Xavier Rudd returned to deliver a ten minute solo performance of 'Spirit Bird', his new album's title track. Ending the night with his hands stretched in the air like the priest that he is, he lead a lengthy prayer asking for harmony and a better world. The room sat stone silent as he delivered a talk perfectly devoid of any specific dogma other than a love of life, music, and people.
Xavier Rudd is currently touring in Nova Scotia and the North Eastern United States on his vegetable oil powered tour bus.