Xavier Rudd

Xavier Rudd 9.22.12 Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, South Australia

On September 22, 2012, a relaxed and diverse crowd gathered inside Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, South Australia. Having just returned from touring Europe and America, Xavier Rudd was back on home soil with his Spirit Bird Tour. This was Rudd’s second performance in Adelaide in 2012, having had an intimate gig at The Gov on March 30 pre-album release. With Spirit Bird now released to international acclaim and Follow the Sun becoming Rudd’s best-selling single to date, the hype surrounding the Spirit Bird Tour was intense.

As the room filled the supporting act, Yeshe, took to the stage for a 30 minute set that included a cover of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry and original songs in Spanish, French and English. Utilising a number of exotic and unusual instruments, Yeshe created a strong beat with a stomp box and surprised the crowd with his multi-instrumental and vocal skill. As swaying and gentle dancing took over from the beer drinking and chatter Yeshe created a positive, warm pre-Xavier vibe. This was, however, replaced by frustration and impatience as 50 minutes passed in the haze of a repetitive, subtly-changing recorded bass beat with nothing to see except the techies adjusting Rudd’s ever-simple setup.

When Rudd finally and suddenly appeared on stage he seemed aware that he had his work cut out for him getting the good feeling back. After bowing to the footsore yet enthused crowd, he went straight to the drum kit, which included two didgeridoos and a windchime, and launched into Lioness Eye. Immediately the long wait was forgotten in the excitement and energy of the song’s driving beat; the crowd was once again on his side and ready to embrace the healing, unifying power contained within every one of Rudd’s performances. The wooden floor literally shook with every beat, conveniently providing all the standing audience with a foot massage. Lighting effects in time with the drums created lightning-like flashes and along with the smoke machines got the crowd even more pumped up.

The setlist included plenty of old favourites and singalongs as well as songs from Spirit Bird. Rudd played the soft ‘Creating a Dream’ a bit too early for some of the crowd and it lost a bit of potency as a result, but ‘Come Let Go’ followed and re-captured everyone’s attention with its familiar easy beat and lyrics that the entire crowd seemed to have memorised. Some of the best moments were Rudd’s improvisations; as a techie adjusted his drum kit Xavier disappeared behind the set, casting a massive shadow against the wall as he hummed a strange tune which morphed into a vocal rendition of ‘Reasons We Were Blessed’. Another highlight was ‘Messages’, when Rudd was joined by Yeshe and a local Aboriginal dancer. The collaboration was beautiful and the crowd’s respect for the modest dancer was palpable. When he disappeared off the stage an over-enthused young guy decided it was his turn and jumped up on stage to the delight of not just the crowd but also Xavier and Yeshe. Despite almost falling into a drum the guy was great entertainment and made the vibe in the room even better. At the end of ‘Messages’ he and Xavier gave each other knuckles and then security threw him back into the crowd – so kind of them to wait until the end of the song!

Coaxed back for an encore by the screaming audience, ‘Prosper’ – a strange cross-over between a recording of Christian protestors and an Aboriginal chant – played while Xavier resumed his place with a guitar. This track led into crowd favourite ‘Bow Down’, which had everyone jumping, clapping and chanting as loud as they could. That magical energy reserve that only makes itself known when an act comes back for an encore had set in! Finishing with the chant “freedom for all!”, ‘Bow Down’ made everyone feel empowered and strong. The soft farewell of ‘Solace Amongst the Sin’ had the crowd worried that Rudd was saying goodbye to them as well, but to their great relief it was followed with the final song and title track of the album, ‘Spirit Bird’. The ability of this song to touch hearts and souls was incredibly powerful and although quite a sad song, it was also a very unifying one. “Soldier on, my good countrymen!” sang Xavier, and the crowd joined him in a wordless chant that had everyone present feeling a deep, spine-tingly connection to Xavier, every other person in the room, the spirit bird, Australia and the whole world.

And on that note, Xavier finished, touching the hands of whoever could reach him, bowing once again to the crowd, and leaving. As the audience dispersed a wonderful glow was visible on every face and felt in every soul.


Review by: Rowena Edwards