Xavier Rudd at KOKO
As the lights went up on KOKO’s stage, you had to wonder if the dizzying array of instruments on display were all for just one man. As evidenced by the three didgeridoos, drumkit and assorted guitars, which were played throughout the evening – sometimes two or more simultaneously – Xavier Rudd’s virtuosity knows no bounds. While not a household name in the UK, in Australia he’s a veritable institution, as well known for his commitment to conservation and environmental issues as his decade long melding of reggae and folk.
The set began with Lioness Eye from last year’s Spirit Bird, with its incessant didgeridoo drone and booming drums reverberating around KOKO’s balconies to glorious effect. The hypnotic sounds that he is able to summon from his percussive motherboard are mightily impressive, but the night’s true highlights arrived when Rudd was sat with just a guitar in his hands. Energy Song and Follow the Sun’s intricately picked melodies soon dispel the chatter drifting down from the bar area, and the sunny opening chords of fan favourite Come Let Go result in one of the night’s biggest cheers. Also proving he’s not one to be pigeon-holed with the folk tag, the raucous Fortune Teller showcases the Australian’s ability to lay down a groove on a lap steel string guitar like the finest New Orleans bluesman.
Rudd is a quiet performer, not engaging in too much audience patter aside from the occasional “How’s it going London?” The more strident side of his personality comes across in his lyrics, none more so than Culture Warrior, a reworking of Bob Marley’s Buffalo Soldier into a plea to conserve Australia’s many natural wonders in which “From the heart of America” becomes “Save the Kimberley”.
After the encore, the slowly building title track from Spirit Bird, the night ends with Xavier Rudd stood centre stage: eyes closed and hand to his breast, calling out a list of environmental disasters. This is the kind of rock star sermonising which usually elicits nothing but eyerolls all round, but with Rudd it’s different. This isn’t Bono lecturing us from behind his designer sunglasses. Xavier Rudd is deeply committed to his causes and to the love for his country. Frankly, the night’s musical display more than earned him the right for a little bit of campaigning.
Photos: Katie Harris
For further information and future events visit Xavier Rudd’s website here.
Watch the video for Follow the Sun here: