Xavier Rudd rocks Centennial Hall

Folk-rock sound makes for one hell of a show

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Xavier Rudd

HEY EVERYBODY, COME SEE HOW GOOD I LOOK WHILE I PLAY WITH MY DIDGERIDOO. Xavier Rudd, along with special guest Mishka, played to an enthusiastic crowd at Centennial Hall.

Aboriginal Australian folk hottie Xavier Rudd played to a semi-packed house at Centennial Hall Monday night.

Barbadian reggae artist Mishka opened for Rudd. Using just his voice and an acoustic guitar, Mishka warmed up the crowd with his strong vocals and danceable rhythms. After a half hour, however, the crowd was ready to see the main act.

After a short break, the lights went out and the silence was broken by a killer drumbeat from Rudd’s collaborative percussionist, Dave Tyler. Amidst the drumming, a nauseating strobe light and a short video projected onto the backstage wall, and Xavier Rudd jogged onstage to a huge ovation. He took his seat on an elevated platform, surrounded by the many instruments that make up his distinctive sound.

Rudd is clearly comfortable with his own setup. Even with his eyes closed, blowing intently into a yidaki (Rudd’s didgeridoo of choice), he still hits every djambe, chime and gong with precision.

Throughout the night he alternated between half a dozen guitars and created a variety of sounds to match his eclectic mix of styles. Both Rudd and Tyler would switch from folk to rock to reggae to instrumental licks, which made for a groovy ambience.

More than familiar with the folk music circuit, Rudd translates well in an indoor venue. His charisma and musical abilities are more than enough to carry a concert. Still, there were a couple of fish-out-of-water moments, including one where he seemed legitimately surprised and impressed with the light display being projected onto the ceiling.

Ever the reluctant rockstar, Rudd said maybe 20 words all night, preferring to let his music do the talking. Even without words, the huge smile that barely left his face made it clear he loves what he’s doing.

Rudd and Tyler had incredible chemistry onstage. Half the time it seemed like the two were just doing whatever they wanted, reading each others’ minds and picking up on subtle musical cues to know when to move forward. At one point, Mishka ambled back onstage to provide extra vocal support, making it feel more like watching three talented friends jamming in a basement rather than a professional concert.

After the main act, Rudd bowed appreciatively to the crowd, which was composed mostly of young folksy twenty-somethings who very promptly and insistently screamed for more. Happy to oblige, Rudd returned guitar in hand for a five or six song semi-acoustic encore.

It was during these slower grooves that he did most of his talking; he thanked the crowd for coming out, having such positive energy, and for “bringing the sunshine” in with them.

Combining intense enthusiasm, incredible musical skill and a truly unique sound, Rudd blurs the line between folk and rock, putting on one hell of a show.

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