"Come people... yeah!", sang the pied piper of Mother Earth as I was drawn into this man's world, his struggle, OUR struggle, his perspective and compelling presence... at least that's how I felt last night watching Xavier Rudd & The United Nations concert at the Powerstation in Auckland.
In all honesty I almost didn't want to review this show, I don't think I can give it enough credit. The band, the songs, the sound, the lights, the crowd, the FEELING... I'm risking sounding gushy here, actually I am. Last night was an EXPERIENCE, so that's how I will review this one... a wonderful beautiful show! A night filled with glorious music the kind that makes you stand up, listen to many sounds, appreciate everything good & bad, cast aside your doubts; LISTEN & be aware of your senses.
Firstly we were treated to a beautiful set by The United Nations drummer Bobby Alu, who hails from Samoa / Australia. Sitting solo on a stool, in a very moody darkness, Alu delivered just under an hour of acoustic ukulele, some traditional music he was taught from Samoan relatives. It was sublime and peaceful which amped up just a little at the end of his set. Unfortunately the crowd was quite thin at this point sadly. I also have to add that in his set with Xavier, Alu played a KILLER drum solo to rival the greats!
After a short break (the crowd had suddenly expanded) a little later than planned, the United Nations took the stage to a huge applause. Then came Xavier. In his surfy regalia, long tux jacket with sleeves cutout overtop, traditional tattoos, bare foot (as were the band) and very recognisable top hat stuffed with feathers and all sorts, he seems to stand out like a force.
His beautiful backup singers made an instant impact on the stage alongside Xavier who stood aside many times to let these ladies have their voice and sing their plight, let them have the room to move with their countries flags spinning and whirling high & in the faces of the audience. He often hugged the ladies, danced with them in a way I can only describe as tribal. There was lots of fist pumps between the band, smiling laughing, grooving... they were almost in their own place and everyone was invited.
Xavier sang a little song that he adapted some words to welcome New Zealand on this sunny day...."Hello Kiwis, welcome to this lovely place..." the crowd were smiling happy & buzzing and singing. He often sings with his eyes closed and a little smile on his face, like he is drawing from a power that's all around us, there is looks of appreciation of a bent note or sound that has been plucked from the strings of his guitar that is plain to see, as with the rest of the band.
Throughout the night we were treated to sounds of reggae, roots, soul, blues, folk & rock, sounds of nature, and the songs & sounds of indigenous peoples as well; all fused together with the sounds of modern music that we all love.
We heard songs from his latest album Nanna & back catalogue... an album I thoroughly recommend by the way. A highlight was when he suddenly bounded to his feet & the eerie sounds of his didgeridoo hummed out with the band in full swing, he danced around & pointed it at everyone. I felt a rush of respect and awe not dissimilar to watching a NZ Maori Haka....
With Xavier's almost 'too old sounding for his body voice' at times, talented guitar playing, the oh so talented band, the night was filled with magical sounds, songs that seemed to have gleaned inspirations from many genres come together with a very strong message to "Come Together"... (which by the way they played a ripping version of complete with screaming lap steel, something I haven't seen played like that in a very long time). Keys, Bass, Drums & wind instrumentals that encompassed you and swept you away.
Needless to say, last nights show was phenomenal. They are playing a couple more shows and the Wanderlust festival in Taupo, get yourself along and experience Xavier & The United Nations.
To Xavier & your band, thank you, last night you bought pure joy & sometimes sadness into my heart, you said to me in a prior interview when talking about your latest tour "there was just something wonderful in the air...." you were right and I hope we see you again soon.
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