Concert review: Xavier Rudd & Izintaba at State Theatre (with videos)

On Sunday night the State Theatre palpitated with the tribal pulse of a world dance festival as concertgoers flailed, swayed and bounced to the eclectic and globally-soaked rhythms of Aussie musician Xavier Rudd.

Accompanied on stage by a cultural orchestra of instruments, including electric, acoustic and lap steel guitars; harmonica; a cocoon of percussive possibilities; chimes; and his partner in awakening the ancestral music vibe, the didgeridoo, Rudd was like a musical chief of the dancing clan in attendance as he played instruments simultaneously while singing airy and fluid melodies.

Previously a solo act that is a staple at events such as Bonnaroo, Rudd is currently on tour with his new band Izintaba promoting Koonyum Sun, his first collaboration with the South African rhythms of Tio Moloantoa on bass and Andile Nqubezelo on drums.

In Rudd’s official website bio he describes the union, saying, ““We have an undeniable connection — musically, spiritually, and emotionally. I feel like they were sent to me.” This sentiment could not have been clearer on the St. Pete venue stage than if the Koonyum sun had actually risen out of the trio’s jam session chemistry to illuminate it; Moloantoa grooving out ethnic and heavy bass lines while Nqubezelo beat African hand drums like the djembe that throbbed through Rudd’s ethereal, Dave Matthews-like vocals, which seemed to rise and float like sonic rays over the crowd. The three men effortlessly blended folk, blues, Caribbean and African tribal influences as they chant-sang and went off into extended instrumental interludes with the didgeridoo humming beneath it all.

As Rudd and Izintaba jammed out Koonyum Sun tracks, such as “Set Me Free” and “Time to Smile,” the divine dancer inside all of us who attended was summoned and taken on a musical river-ride; jiving upstream and grooving downstream, bouncing through twists and turns and swaying like tree leaves when the rhythm slowed down.

With all the cultural beats, chanting and multi-dimensional instrumentation, it was as though the performers and listeners had come together to lift the spirits of the audible universe and give thanks to the musical gods. And, being that I totally partook with my flailing body, swaying arms and hoots and hollers for more, it was the perfect way to end my amazing summer 2010 concert adventures.

Videos are below, which kinda-sorta capture the vibe, but the only way to do Xavier Rudd and Izintaba’s music justice is to go to a show and participate in the tribal dance yourself.

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