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Xavier Rudd At The Henry Fonda Theater, Monday October 15th 2012

There was an impressive number of blonde young girls for this Xavier Rudd concert at the Henry Fonda on Monday night, I swear, I had at least 10 of them surrounding me, sprinkling my feet with cold beer as they were jumping with enthusiasm while following the tribal rhythms of the Australian native.

 

Xavier Rudd is a one-man band, playing multiple instruments at the same time, using many guitars, stomp box, harmonica and percussion during his set, switching to a full drum set for some songs, even incorporating indigenous Australian didgeridoos, these long wind pipes producing this very peculiar sound. I had no idea what to expect, and found someone stepping on stage barefoot with a large sunny smile on his face, wearing a Woomera Sovereign Rights Union t-shirt (a aboriginal liberation movement), and playing non stop a large variety of genres for close to two hours. He went from acoustic folk ballads sometimes transforming themselves into wild stomping bluesy numbers, to reggae-inspired songs – Rudd even covered a Bob Marley song – to tempestuous ethnic numbers going into full drum-fury.

 

All this sounded very world music, and on stage he brought the sounds of nature and wild life, essential themes for this activist-surfer-vegetarian-PETA-supporter-Sea-Shepard-recipient – an international marine wildlife conservation organization. Now, you may ask, can a white blonde guy with a-head-in-the-clouds be tribal and ethnic? Think what you want but what he did last night was truly sincere, and keep your cynicism for yourself if you want to appreciate his music, Rudd may be a sort of Australian Johnny Clegg, taking the defense of the Australian Aboriginal population instead of the South African Zulus, being on mission to change the world through music before it’s too late,… and visibly lots of people already got the message seeing how packed the Henry Fonda theater was.

 

He spent a large part of his set playing various guitars lying on his lap, just as Ben Harper does, producing bluesy or reggae sounds, tapping his foot on a stomp box, using harmonica or didgeridoos, going into long melancholic numbers, folk ballads or mixing exotic middle-eastern-Indian themes, with a great range in the vocals which reminded me Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder at times… but the most successful parts, if I believe the crowd, were the dee- down stomp-blues ones, such as ‘Fortune Teller’ or ‘Food in the Belly’, which were a real success among the young audience going wild, foot tapping as if it were a saloon-Irish-line-dancing on a Saturday night.

 

And the mood was alternating faster than I could follow between these uplifting crazy-happy-feet songs, and melancholic and quiet acoustic parts such as the earthy 'Spirit Bird' or the peaceful and Lennon-esque-message-loaded ‘Creating a dream’, ‘Imagine sacred sites were left to be/Imagine if true activists controlled TV'. Then there were a few of these animated drum-machine numbers again turning sometimes all trance-mantra or psychedelic Arabic incantation. All this was visibly the work of someone who has picked up lots of diverse influences around the world.

 

Rudd was enjoying the spectacle of the very loving crowd, he couldn’t stop smiling, serene while executing his prayers to mother nature which was all over his exotic sounds and lyrics, incarnating on stage the four-element powerful strengths,.. however he was thanking the crowd for ‘bringing all this wonderful energy in this room’, before returning a little later to a submarine reggae, covering Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’ and taking large liberty with the lyrics of the song now ecologically revisited. The only time he wasn’t alone on stage, he performed a very uplifting devilish tune with Yeshe, a guy who had opened for him and was playing all kinds of African instruments…. All this variety was not creating a moody climate, rather a wake up atmosphere, with the quietest ballad ending up in thunder, all the natural elements rising up in unison, and all the tribes of the earth combining their chants. He left us with an a cappella poetic ode to the earth, holding a boomerang and talking about polar bears and the ground fortunately still frozen,… but for how long? I guess this is the meaning of his message.

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