Show Review: Xavier Rudd @ Queen Elizabeth

Birks, Dreads & Bud

It’s Xavier Rudd At The

Queen Elizabeth Theatre!

May 20, 2010

 
It’s the first really warm day of spring, which partly explains why some patrons at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre tonight are dressed for the beach.  The other reason is that Xavier Rudd is playing his first of two nearly sold out shows.
 
The Queen Elizabeth isn’t the prettiest of venues; it’s bland and boxy like a movie theatre on the inside, but it hosts some amazingly intimate shows.  And while you have to traverse through the desolate Exhibition grounds to get there, where else will you be served complimentary sushi and spring rolls before a concert?
 
Canadian Justin Nozuka opens the night with his three-piece acoustic band; including some sort of washboard instrument.  Even suffering with allergies, he pulls off an impressive set; his popular single ‘After Tonight’ rounding it out.  Though he seems to have almost as many fans in the audience as Xavier does, he humbly invites everyone to come chat in the lobby after his performance.
 
Xavier, barefoot and shaggy-haired, presumably rolled straight off the beach and onto the stage.  The venue erupts.  Clearly this show doesn’t belong in a seated venue as everyone is up singing, dancing and smoking weed.  Many disregard the seating plan altogether, filling the aisles and the space at the front of the stage.  I’m left wondering how I started my night on a Toronto streetcar and ended up in some sort of UBC campfire-on-the-beach frosh party.
 
The second song ‘Set Me Free’ from his newest album, Koonyum Sun, keeps the party going.  In fact, all of his songs dissolve into a pulsating tribal beat at some point. The band launches into instrumental tangents so long that it’s almost a surprise when they return to the chorus.  There are also times when Xavier sounds astonishingly like Sting, singing over Bob Marley hits.  Or moreso, like when Sting tried to go all “worldly” with ‘Desert Rose’. The difference is that Xavier actually pulls it off.
 
True to his Australian roots, Xavier plays not one, but three Didgeridoos, sometimes simultaneously with drums or a lap steel guitar.  He’s backed by Lucky Dube’s former drummer Andile Nqubezelo and bassist Tio Moloantoa; collectively known as Izintaba.  Andile provides stellar Afro-reggae beats while Tio holds his bass so high it’s almost a violin.
 
Xavier doesn’t say much during his hour and a half set.  Even his songs are largely instrumental with wordless, wailing vocals.  The fans don’t seem to mind, they still connect.  The night is perfectly summed up by one girl who stands in the middle of the aisle after the encore, eyes closed, head titled back, arms at her sides, palms facing forward.  Just when I think she might be about to pass out or throw up, she extends her arms to the heavens, praising Xavier like a sun god and mouths “thank you”.
 
(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- June 12 2010)

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About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on March 7, 2011, in Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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