Words – Meredith McLean
Photos – Bobby Rein
To celebrate the new and collaborative album Nanna created between Xavier Rudd and a troupe of musicians from around the globe he’s leading the Flag Tour through Australia. Crowds come together for Xavier Rudd but from the night’s performance the prediction is they’ll keep coming for the newest addition, The United Nations.
Before we could meet Rudd’s chosen musicians from far and wide, we embraced one of them, a percussionist who leads the support act bobby Alu. The Gold Coast based, soulful reggae band lead by bobby Alu delivered sweet covers of songs such as “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Just The Two Of Us”. But what really struck the crowd was the drum circle they created during the set. Abandoning their ukuleles and vocals for a wrathful surge of percussion the crowd pulsed with them, creating the perfect crescendo before the headline act.
XAVIER RUDD & THE UNITED NATIONS
Being a first time punter in a live Xavier Rudd set I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was well aware of his impressive multi-instrumental shows as a solo performer. And any fan would be well familiar with that damn feather-sprouting, tail dangling top hat of his. But this wasn’t any sort of preparation for the presence of Xavier Rudd & the United Nations that our crowd was greeted with.
If you hadn’t already familiarised yourself with the new album Nanna then this was the best way to hear it. Rudd draws the album together but it’s the United Nations that are the voices of this album.
“Come People”, the first single from this new United Nations collaborative period of Rudd’s career is another single that I eagerly welcome into the folds of his best tracks. In this particular performance Chris Lane stole the moment with a solo on a bansuri. The opening track on this album, “Flag”, is equally powerful. To see it come alive under the stage lights, the United Nations troupe dancing and waving flags having the time of their lives, is a very funky Thursday night in the valley.
There was a perfect ratio of fan favourites, new Nanna tracks and groovy covers. Their cover of “Come Together” sent chills into the crowd that could only be released by dancing it out. I watched two girls link arms and spiral around as if the tune had possessed them.
Rudd definitely has a way of fueling his audience. Midway through the “Come Together” cover he called out “Do you feel it in Brisbane?”. Naturally, Brisbanites loved that unsubtle tout. I could hear others close to me in the crowd laughing or simply belting out the lyrics. At one point I overheard a woman say, “It’s been half an hour and we’ve only heard two songs. Simply incredible!” True to her observation, this tour gives leeway to Rudd and his crew to really explore the tune, embrace the melodies and warble on in these fantastic extended live versions of favourites new and old.
After a two hour set at The Tivoli Xavier Rudd & the United Nations embraced each other for the final encore. This seems like a better time than any to give due credit to the entire, new crew.
On drums the aforementioned Bobby Alu. Yeshe Reiners also brings percussion and skills on the ngoni. On the trombone, Stuart Currie and for the trumpet, Peter Hunt. Eddie Ellias provides the piano, organs and Fender Rhodes. Simon Keet leads the synthesizer. Tio Moloantoa absolutely kills it on the bass particularly in his solo during “Come People”. Chris Lane was also mentioned earlier for his skills on the bansuri and the tenor sax. And last but not least, Georgia Carowa and Alicia Mellor who gives the United Nations their backing vocals and the soulful powerhouse behind the band.
Though the music didn’t require any intensive dancing by the end of the two-hour set everyone was exhausted. It seemed even if it wasn’t taxing on the body it was emotionally draining for the crowd to stand and be captivated for so long. Nonetheless, watching the waves of people lapping out the door they all seemed happy as if stepping out of a cleansing experience, or maybe they were just high. Either way, the Flag Tour by Xavier Rudd & the United Nations will be a memorable one.