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Xavier Rudd At Santa Monica Twilight Concert Series, Thursday August 1st 2013

Rudd on the beach


  Xavier Rudd is a happy man, an all-living-things and beyond lover, a free spirit walking barefoot on stage, playing all the instruments he wants with talent and passion, talking about the earth we should keep clean and the nature we should save.

During the Twilight Series, he was playing a concert on the pier at Santa Monica beach, the perfect place for him as he is also an ocean lover and a surfer, and the pier and the beach was super crowded. This Australian is a one-man band – he can play 18 different instruments – and during the same song he could play a special lap guitar (the Weissenborn lap steel guitar), drums, percussion, harmonica and these very ethnic didgeridoos used by the Aboriginal people, or jam for a very long time, stretching, mixing, sampling his songs as he wished. Last time I saw him, he was totally alone on stage, but this time another percussionist-drummer was helping him on some songs, adding even more rhythms and beats to his hybrid music. Hybrid? Yeah, some people have even accused to parody Paul Simon – just listen to the folky catchy cute Messages, but be careful you may have it stuck in your head for days – with a touch of Ben Harper (the same type of lap guitar) or Jack Johnson, adventuring himself into reggae beats and dub territory (‘Come Let Go’)… Musically, this guy is a bit all over the place, but lyrically, he always stays loyal to his eco-friendly message – ‘Messages’ also being the title of his first song he played during his long set. I am not sure he even played a lot of songs, but he jammed them with so much passion and drum-didgeridoos solos than his performance may have sounded like a psychedelic-hypnotic-mushroom-induced experience at times.

Xavier Rudd was switching from lap guitar to didgeridoos, alternating between these quiet and beautiful ballads (‘Follow the Sun’, ‘Spirit Bird’) populated by all these rainforest noises, to explosive percussive numbers, to tribal chants, or a cappella prayers to the earth, even including Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’ in the middle of one long song and integrating into the lyrics ‘Save Australia and respect our culture’. This is someone who certainly doesn’t play his songs the same way he records them, live is a new experience each time, with full improvisation in the middle of a song, and samples of a song sandwiched inside another one.

People were cheering, singing along, dancing, foot stomping and even head banging during some of the hardest rock parts, and a guy wearing a Coachella t-shirt on my left certainly knew all the lyrics of the songs. Meanwhile, Xavier was all smile all the time, affirming his unusual connection with the earth even more at each song. He ended his set with an encore and ‘Spirit Bird’, bringing deep emotion among people singing along the ethnic chant and the earnest lyrics such as ‘Many tribes of a modern kind, doing brand new works, same spirit by side/joining hearts and hand and ancestral twine/ancestral twine’… This is the thing with Rudd, he could easily look like some hippie-generation leftover, but the live experience tells us the musician surfer-activist is the real thing. Nobody would end a concert with an a cappella poem about being one love one mob for the earth and the ocean while holding a boomerang in one hand, without looking ridiculous. However, ridiculous couldn’t have been further from everyone’s mind when he just did this. Xavier Rudd looked like a sincere wildlife adventurer, just sharing his save-the world mission and his unconditional hope for the future.

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