Xavier Rudd: The Rave, 9-22-08

Posted 10/19/2008 by cal

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Xavier Rudd has managed in a very short time to develop a loyal following in Milwaukee. Dating back to his triumphant debut last July at the Rave, college youths, music junkies, 88.9 listeners, and others have warmed up to the sweet rhythms and cool, peaceful vibes this Australian multi-instrumentalist continues to cook up. Supported by Nashville-based folk songwriter Griffin House, the tour breezed into Milwaukee on a Monday night in September.

Not knowing anything about House, I wasn’t expecting much but also duly intrigued about what it was going to be. He turned out to be the perfect opener for Xavier, pouring a lot of talent and emotion into a solo acoustic set. It’s very rare when a little-known artist can come up on stage and elicit a rousing reaction from start to finish, particularly with his own songs. But House is a more accomplished artist than I thought, having released a number of albums and possessing a songwriting prowess that few solo artists have these days. Added to that a beautiful voice and proficient guitar playing, and the small crowd was treated to the best House had to offer.
Folkiness just emitted out of House. The acoustics are not always kind at the Rave and it showed. But it sounded fine all the same. The opener “Better Than Love,” from Griffin’s newest release Flying Upside Down, proved the artist’s penchant for crafting intelligent love songs. Upon ending the song, House made the comment that the Rave was very “echo-y…it’s a crazy room.” Obviously, he was very aware of the deficiencies of the sound in that very room. House proceeded to play a strong selection of songs from his new CD, highlighted by a political song dedicated to his grandfather called “I Remember (It’s Happening Again)” and the excellent “When the Time is Right.” Then Griffin dug into the archives of his first album, Lost and Found, with “Ah Me” before dedicating the next song emotionally to his recently lost grandmother. Overall, House delivered more than I ever thought he would, and it’s a great feeling knowing you had just experienced something new and meaningful.
It was obvious from the start of Rudd’s set that this was the Dark Shades of Blue tour, a set dominated and pervaded by material from the new album, possibly the artist’s strongest work yet. Although in the beginning the drums were not in a great mix, the sound and delivery was still very forceful. Rudd and drummer Dave Tolley have evolved a heavier sound that I must say is quite remarkable one year removed from seeing them for the first time at the Park West for the White Moth tour. “Black Water>Dark Shades of Blue” was an astounding opening, Rudd operating from his multi-instrumental nest and Tolley pounding away creating a wall of sound that no two men should be able to make. “Stargaze” followed with quality steel guitar work from Rudd. The crowd, by this time filled in by many intoxicated Marquette kids, was treated to some amazing rhythmic explosions at this juncture.
The next tune was the instrumental solo “Message Stick” with the didgeridoo master at work. The show took on a somewhat laid-back, groovin’ character at this point--not that this is a bad thing, but it seemed Xavier wasn’t filling out many of the jams and instead the show became more thoughtful, more pensive.
Again, it was clear Rudd was concentrating on his latest work, playing focused, intent versions of “Edge of the Moon” and “Secrets;” darker, a more subdued Xavier Rudd showing another side of his personal bravado. The show seemed to end a bit early with an uptempo version of “Food in the Belly” complete with drum solo by Tolly and then “The Mother,” with Rudd returning to his didgeridoo set that featured good experimentation and interplay with the crowd.
The encore featured a riveting, slow-building “Pockets of Peace” before ending uncharacteristically with Xavier reciting a solo soliloquy with a native stick as a sort of chant. It was quite beautiful, giving thanks to the crowd, a base of fans that is slowly getting to know Xavier Rudd and his multi-faceted music. This show may not have been as dynamic as others on this current tour. It may not have been as impressive for the first time Rudd experience. It did, however, have a unique quality that many fans will long appreciate. I walked out of the Rave dreaming and already hoping Xavier would return soon. Knowing him, he probably will.

Setlist:

Black Water>
Dark Shades of Blue
Stargaze
Message Stick
Edge of the Moon
Messages
Secrets
Come Let Go
Food in the Belly
The Mother
Let Me Be

Encore:
Pockets of Peace
Thank you (A Capella Prayer)

--James Parker

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