Live Review: Xavier Rudd @ Malkin Bowl, Vancouver - May 17th 2024

Live Review: Xavier Rudd @ Malkin Bowl, Vancouver – May 17th 2024

The ultimate hippie icon of the early 2000s and one of Australia’s most beloved artists, Xavier Rudd, reemerged in all his free-spirited powers amidst the ancient trees of Stanley Park on a two-day engagement at the Malkin Bowl this weekend. 

The show on Friday marked the first date of his first tour in this part of the world in some time, coinciding with the release of his Freedom Sessions, a mellow and concise album that welcomes an evolution from past stylings with some electronic sounds and stripped back, jammy musical meanderings. The tour draws heavily as well from his 2022 release Jan Juc Moon, a strong effort that pays tribute to the artist’s place of birth. Despite slowing pace considerably in recent years of his musical career, Xavier proved a strong draw for the Third Beach drum circle crowd who came out in droves to hear his songs of peace and protest.

With a strong connection to our land, Rudd’s wife being from the Comox Valley, Vancouver seemed a fitting launching pad for his return to the stage. Ever the one-man band, Xavier stepped out solo onto the stage that was kitted out with a wide array, a veritable playground for the keen multi-instrumentalist to let his creativity flow. The man came out characteristically barefoot and wearing a stylish pair of beige overalls that showed off his striking physique and collection of tribal tattoos. His presence sparked the largely anesthetized and lounging crowd to get up and gather closer. “Smells like B.C.,” he remarked smilingly as plumes of smoke curled up into the clear blue sky.

Xavier expressed joy to be here to take in “that beautiful Canadian energy” as he played the fast-paced throwback, “Energy Song”. Despite juggling a lot of instrumental elements as he launched into the set, he still somehow found the chance to stare dreamily out at the trees surrounding the venue and scan the audience to make sincere eye contact with his fans. “I like B.C. because it’s full of dreamers,” he declared, dedicating “We Deserve to Dream” to all of those people, serenading us with his signature slide guitar stylings.

He has taken his multi-tasking to a new level since his stage show fifteen years ago, now somehow managing to drum on a full kit–rather than a simple kick pedal–while bafflingly simultaneously playing the notoriously tricky didgeridoo. He did this in “Culture Bleeding”, achieving the cool and gritty, beatboxing sound in the spiritually charged track. 

Throughout the set, Rudd’s bare feet gave him optimized dexterity to utilize the range of effects and pedals at his feet to pull off his more ambitious songs. Having never used looping previously in his live act, the musician was now embracing it. The set did feel a bit experimental and unpracticed as a result and came off with varying degrees of success, but the sheer effort and ground covered on stage more than made up for it. Between the army of guitar techs operating like clockwork and Xavier’s willingness to hop from keys to strings to drums in quick succession, the set was a pretty impressive undertaking.

Xavier oscillated between stripped-back campfire sing-alongs and exploratory rhythm boxing, with fan favourites like “Follow the Sun” peppered in. True to form, Xavier was sure to acknowledge and honour the thousands of years of culture of the Indigenous cultures in both of our respective homelands, ever hoping to inspire those fighting to keep their cultures alive in the face of oppression. The anti-corporate, environmental, and Indigenous rights-focused themes interwoven throughout songs resonated strongly with the crowd, who also went wild for the more tribal and earthy anthems.  

He whipped everyone into a frenzy, improvising wild animal thrills and wailing on the harmonica, accelerating the tempo wildly in the classic track “Let Me Be”. The crowd bopped out the happy-go-lucky chorus of “High Times”, filling out the arrangement for the hard-working musician. In the final tune of the formal set, “Come Let Go”, which comes with good memories of recording the track on the Sunshine Coast, Xavier once again coaxed the audience into a unanimous singalong. He even let us sing him off as he strode the front of the stage to connect with and wave goodbye to his tribe, everyone still singing even as the backing track slowly faded away. There was nothing but good vibes all around, and I would expect nothing less at a show from such a down-to-earth and joy-filled musician as this Aussie treasure.

Set List: 

Full Circle

Stoney Creek

Energy Song

Culture Bleeding

We Deserve to Dream

Storm By

Messages

Ball and Chain

Let Me Be

High Times

I Am Eagle

Spirit Bird

Lioness Eye

Flag

Follow the Sun

Come Let Go

Encore:

Magic

Moments

World Order, Pt. 1

World Order, Pt. 2

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