Australian surf-roots musician Xavier Rudd has been around for more than a decade, spreading his message of acceptance and love all over the world. After no less than seven solo albums—most of which went either platinum or gold in his home country—the outspoken environmentalist decided to form The United Nation, an eight-piece band who’s newest LP came out earlier this year. On it, Rudd puts aside the folk aesthetic he has been refining ever since 2002’s To Let, in favour of pursuing and exploring something completely different: Reggae.
While Nanna, Rudd’s most recent album, is an evident change of pace for him, longstanding fans can still find on the LP everything that makes the songwriter’s music so exciting: Strong messages of peace and unity; a highly recognizable, soulful and soothing voice; sumptuously crafted instrumentation; catchy pop choruses; and a definite sunny vibe. Highlights include the first single, “Come People” with its addictive horn section and its assembling chant “I believe we are one, we are sacred,” “Nanna,” which features sublime backing vocals from chorister Georgia, and opener “Flag,” featuring one of the catchiest choruses of 2015. For 54 minutes, The United Nation can transport listeners to the closest white sand beach at absolutely any time: All you have to do is close your eyes.
Earlier this year in an interview with EARMILK, Rudd described the formation of his new band as “very organic.” He said, “it literally felt like all of our ancestors had a cup of tea and put us together.” The multi-instrumentalist, who made his reputation performing as a one-man band behind a complex setup that could include guitars, djembes, a didgeridoo, a stomp box, a harmonica, and shakers, is leading an ensemble on stage for the first time. But solely judging from the live recordings of his present tour, listeners could easily be fooled to think that he has been working with The United Nation his entire career. Ever-smiling and zen-like, dancing smoothly to the off-beat rhythm of his relaxed reggae anthems, there is no doubt he is living a dream.
Having first started his career in Whistler, British Columbia, Rudd’s Canadian fanbase has grown to be a very dedicated one. In fact, it is so considerable that half of his North American tour is on Canadian soil, including five stops in Quebec alone. This contrasts wildly from most international acts that usually only stop at three or four of the biggest Canadian venues and spend most of their time in the United States.
“[Rudd’s] smile and onstage charisma is infectious,” wrote the Brisbane Times. “If he was indeed starting a cult, there would have been thousands of followers ditching their shoes and amassing a head full of dreadlocks out of pure respect for a masterful performance.”
Since then, the musician and his band have been averaging almost a show per day, making audiences all around North America boogie to the sound of some of the best world-music to have been written in the past years.
As Rudd plans to go back to playing solo shows in the next years, the possibility that “The Flag” tour will be a once in a lifetime experience for fans is a very strong one, one which only a fool would deliberately choose to miss.
“Some people have seen me 10 to 15 times and loved my solo shows,” Rudd said in an interview with the Cairns Post. “[They] have come up to me and said [The United Nations performance is] their favourite show.”