Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto, ON
May 20, 2010
Review by: Whitney Pineault
Photos by: Michelle Cortese
This past Thursday, Australian singer-songrwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Xavier Rudd, returned to Toronto for two highly anticipated performances at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Xavier Rudd & Inzintaba
Debuting songs from his latest album, Koonyum Sun, Rudd was joined by Inzintaba, who collaborated with Rudd on the new release. The result? A night filled with peace & love, a couple doobies, and some really, really good times.
As soon as the house lights dimmed and the darkened silhouette of Xavier Rudd became visible, a mass of eager fans fled to the front of the stage in hopes of getting a better view of the man they had been waiting for. Isles were clogged with excited audience members who danced and cheered as Rudd & Inzintaba began into their set. Rudd, who appeared barefoot, was visibly elated to be on stage and widely grinned at the Canadian crowd repeatedly. His lighting, from time to time, was comprised of glowing marijuana leaves that lit up the stage and seemed to influence a few fans to light up as well.
Playing mostly new tracks from the album, Koonyum Sun, it was clear that these three musicians shared a very special bond. Each brought their own individual influences and artistry to the performance creating a brand new experience for audience members. Their comradery was quite entertaining but at times, Rudd would stand off to the side of the stage and watch, beaming as Inzintaba took over the spotlight. Bassist, Tio Moloantoa, was incredibly skilled and completely captivating to watch. His small stature made his bass guitar seem far too big for him but the amount of dexterity he possessed clearly proved that this was not the case. Percussionist, Andile Nqubezelo, also a very gifted musician, would switch back and forth between his drum kit and a pair of bongos that had been set up at the front of the stage. In addition, he would often provide backing vocals, which were both gentle and calming.
Rudd was excellent at getting get crowd completely riled up. He would jump and dash from one end of the stage to the other, encouraging everyone to join in. And when he would sit at his signature set-up, comprised of numerous different instruments including a stripped down drum kit and three didgeridoos, the audience would erupt in immediate applause. Much of the set featured lengthy instrumental breaks that made it all too easy to get lost in the music and lose all sense of time and place. At the beginning of “Guku”, a song from his previous album Dark Shades Of Blue, Rudd ripped out his in-ear monitor and tossed it aside which in turn produced a considerable amount of cheering. His lack of stage banter did not seem to bother his fans even though it was kept limited to the odd “thank you” or introduction of the other musicians.
Apart from Inzintaba, a lone banjo player (who's name I didn't catch) was the only additional musician who appeared on stage. During one of two songs he was present for, Rudd again stepped out of the spotlight and let the focus be on the accompanying musician. I was stoked for a sweet banjo solo but one of two things must have happened; either it was completely off the cuff and he had no idea Rudd was going to give him that opportunity, or the poor guy had a bad case of stage fright. It seemed far too soon for Rudd and Inzintaba's set to be finished as they shared an exhausted yet adrenalized hug and exited the stage.
After just a short break and a deafening amount of cheering, Rudd returned, this time solo playing the painfully honest acoustic track (and personal favourite), “Love Comes And Goes”. The upbeat “Time To Smile” followed which also brought Inzintaba back out. Rudd, still energized from the audience's heartfelt enthusiasm, ran back and forth across the stage, slapping hands with everyone in reach. And then, it was all over. If you ever have the chance to catch this man live, take it. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the tail end of Justin Nozuka's opening set but what I did hear was quite impressive. He may only be 21 but Nozuka has an old soul and a voice that will stop you dead in your tracks. Mixing together soul, folk, and blues in an organic acoustic fashion allows for his sincere emotion to flow through each song — easily forming a connection with his audience. I recognized the catchy, “After Tonight”, which garnered much applause from the audience, but I had never fully recognized how lovely and well-crafted a song it really is. There certainly were a few die-hard female Nozuka fans present as screaming broke out when he announced he would be sticking around to say hello following his set. His brand new sophomore release, You I Wind Land And Sea, is now available in stores and online.