Xavier Rudd is a legend- revered and adored by fans. As he walked onto stage, women all around me help their smartphones up high and began to scream, gush and melt at the sight of him (sorry ladies, he’s married). And yet, outside his fan base, a blank stare or “Xavier who? That guy from X-men?” is a common response to the mention of his name. With three didgeridoos, an assortment of drums, banjos, harmonicas, bells, guitar and a bass guitar near at hand, a first glance at the stage set up would quite reasonable lead one to believe that at least four or five musicians would be taking the stage with Rudd, but no. Rudd is a one-man band who seamlessly shifts between instruments and songs, from guitar solos to drum solos, he is captivating to watch. Like Tom Hanks in Castaway, Rudd did not need much of a supporting cast. He was absolutely brilliant all on his own & he kept me hooked for the entirety of his more than two hour set.
Arguably, Rudd has gained considerable popularity in both Australia and Canada, primarily striking a cord with socially conscious activists across both countries. When he released “To Let,” his first full-length solo album in 2002, he hooked people on his brilliant mix of socially conscious writing & upbeat, catchy tempos and melodies. So, earlier in his solo career, his shows visibly drew crowds who felt connected to and who were deeply passionate about much of the spirituality, environmentalism and human rights issues that his songs elucidate so beautifully. Rudd has always been very vocal about aboriginal rights and has often included aboriginal vocals from both Canada and Australia on a number of his tracks. Thus, it seemed very fitting that his set should open with the Ohnia kara drum group. “Ohni kara” is actually a Mohawk name meaning “the neck between two bodies of water” and is the origin of the English word for Niagara. They are touring with Xavier Rudd while he travels across Canada and are made of a mix of many first nations’ backgrounds but primarily call the Niagara Ontario region of Canada home.
Unfortunately, a very loud late night Commodore crowd really detracted from the power and beauty of Ohnia:kara drum group’s performance and the reflections that they main speaker was trying to share with his audience. In fact, throughout the entire night, quieter songs, moments and times when Xavier Rudd spoke to the crowd was overpowered by the dull roar of chatter in the audience all around me. I suppose popularity and having a very late night show attracted a crowd often more engaged in conversation, additional rounds of drinks and photo-taking as opposed to the quiet, thoughtful reflection that much of his latest album, “Spirit Bird” provokes. In fact, it was rather jarring how different crowd disposition was at this Commodore show as “the usual” Rudd crowd. Regrettably, loud chatter was a fierce competitor with much of his quieter, thoughtful newer material. Consequently, many of the tracks from “Spirit Bird” were lost on the crowd, a crowd who failed to allow Rudd to showcase the beauty of his voice, delicate instrumentation and powerful themes of love, respect and peace that those songs evoke. All in all, Rudd put on yet another incredible performance. His skill, talent and beautiful musicality keep me coming back year after year and jumping at any chance I get to see a live performance. Rudd live is an experience that just isn’t quite captured on his recordings. He seems to be so happy in his bare-foot element jamming on his drums, didgeridoos and with a guitar lying across his lap. That sort of passion and love for what he does and the message he is trying to share with his audience is both admirable and inspiring. It inspires those listening to take a thoughtful pause, to reflect on what came before us, how our actions and lifestyle choices affect the people and environment around us here and now, and to consider how those actions will affect humanity’s future. I’m hoping to see Xavier Rudd tour across Canada before another two years pass, and that maybe the next time he comes to Vancouver he considers a different venue.