Friday night saw the South Lawn of the Fremantle Arts Centre play host to the penultimate night of Xavier Rudd’s Storm Boy Australian tour, joining Rudd for the evening were Victoria’s The Teskey Brothers.
Having never seen The Teskey Brothers before, nor heard any of their output, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Even then, what I got proved to be a surprise, albeit a welcome one. Given the headliner I was probably expecting something rooted in the folk or roots genres. Instead, The Teskey Brothers are well versed in soul and blues, with a number of their songs bringing to mind some of those old greats from both genres.
The band was tight, with solid performances from each of the members, though Sam Teskey’s guitar playing particularly shone through. And, in my opinion you can never go wrong with a horn section! It also became clear as the set went on that there’s plenty of songwriting talent amongst the group, with frontman Josh Teskey keen to drawn attention to the song’s requisite writer. Highlights included a cover of Freddie Kings “I Love The Woman”, “Pain and Misery” and “I Get Up”.
Before Friday night, it’d been a number of years since I last saw Xavier Rudd play live. Up until Friday I’d only ever seen him perform solo; the addition of a band certainly adds a degree of muscularity to his performance – giving the evening’s more instrumental moments added kick. Before we got to any music though, there was a brief address from an environmental activist talking about the Kimberley Region, and urging concertgoers to get in contact with their local MPs ahead of a decision regarding fracking and to make their voices heard. It might’ve been a few years since I last saw Rudd live, but it’s clear his passion for the environment and his activism hasn’t diminished in that time.
Rudd kicked off proceedings with “Honeymoon Bay” from his latest album Storm Boy. As you would expect songs from the latest album dominated the setlist, but were fairly evenly spread across the evening, interspersed amongst older crowd favourites. White Moth’s “Come Let Go” was an early highlight, and quickly had the crowd singing along, as was “Best That I Can” from Storm Boy. Other album tracks, “Storm Boy” and “Walk Away” were also given a warm reception from the Fremantle crowd, the latter getting one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Further highlights of the main set included “Follow The Sun” from Spirit Bird, which brought the main part of the show to a close. Whilst, there were plenty of highlights, there were a few moments where I felt my attention, and the crowd’s drifting, with Rudd and his band not quite managing to keep the energy levels and tempo consistent across the entire set. For example, I felt there were a couple of more tepid instrumental moments that went on a touch too long. There was a bit of restlessness within the crowd, especially at the fringes, but that could also be down to the cold wind coming in off the coast. That said any time where was an instrumental breakdown with Rudd bringing out the didge, everyone’s attention was soon right back on the stage.
Indeed, it was the instrumental number “Lioness Eye” which kicked off the encore, with Rudd going full one man band on the didgeridoo and drums. This was followed by “While I’m Gone” from 2015’s Nanna and finally “Spirit Bird” from the album of the same name, which proved to be a bring the evening to a beautiful finish.
The evening provided to me a welcome reminder of Rudd’s talent as a performer and songwriter. It was a charismatic, entertaining and often high energy performance, and one which just exuded so much positivity and love. There are undoubtedly some who will find the social justice aspect of his songwriting and performance a bit tacky, or overly earnest, but there is no denying that in our increasingly divided times, a bit more positivity, love and mutual understanding wouldn’t go amiss.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Xavier Rudd’s Australian Storm Boy tour has now concluded. The reviewer attended the performance at Fremantle Arts Centre on November 23rd.