Xavier Rudd brings new album, ‘Storm Boy,’ to Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Xavier Rudd
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, June 3, 8:30 p.m.
How much: $40/general admission; $65/reserved
Tickets: Belly Up box office; www.bellyupaspen.com
Xavier Rudd is going solo once again.
The Australian singer-songwriter — and regular on Aspen area stages — has released his first solo record in six years, “Storm Boy,” and is on the road playing his new songs in the kind of virtuosic, rootsy multi-instrumental performances that first endeared him to fans here and around the world.
Rudd headlines Belly Up Aspen on Sunday night.
He took the new songs on what he described as a “small warm-up tour” in Australia earlier this year, but is now playing the new songs for the first time in front of audiences in the U.S.
“This will be the first run,” he said in a recent phone interview.
Rudd burst on the international scene following his 2002 debut, “To Let,” playing mostly as a one-man band and storming the stage with a complex instrumental setup worthy of Rube Goldberg: combining as many as three didgeridoos, with a slide guitar on his lap and more string instruments at his side, a stompbox at his feet — drums, dobros, banjos, harmonicas and more within reach.
Playing them all and singing, his sets quickly became must-see concerts and won him a loyal worldwide fan base, including a Colorado contingent that packed his shows in recent years at Belly Up, Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival and the Mammoth Festival.
In 2015, Rudd took a creative turn and started packing stages with global collaborators. He put together an eight-piece global collective of world musicians called the United Nations that placed Rudd at the center of a veritable reggae-tinged orchestra. He put out an ambitious album, “Nanna,” with the group.
On the current tour, he’s playing with a four-piece band and returning to his roots as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
“I’m bringing my whole solo percussion rig — something I haven’t brought out for a while,” Rudd said.
And, as fans have come to expect, Rudd is busting out some new sounds and some rare instruments like an Indian slide guitar and some hand-built, one-of-a-kind contraptions that he has invented.
It’s been six years since Rudd’s last proper solo record, “Spirit Bird.” The new one showcases an honest, earnest and personal side of Rudd, in songs filled with images of the natural world and soaring melodies on tracks like the lovely lead single “Walk Away.” Many of these new “Storm Boy” songs began gestating in his pre-United Nations period.
“It feels like a follow-up to ‘Spirit Bird’ in a way,” Rudd said. “I was writing these songs back then and some even before then. … The United Nations project, I wrote a bunch of tracks for that project and it was everybody bringing their individuality to the table, whereas this has been constructed by me. So I think it’s more personal, more reflective.”
Rudd, who turned 40 this past week, sees the new record as a creative breakthrough.
“I feel like I’m on another level in every way these days,” he said. “I feel there’s still an upward progression within myself. I haven’t gotten to the point where I feel like I’m going over the hill and going back down. I’m still surfing up the hill.”
Rudd has been outspoken on political and environmental issues throughout his career, and has led activist efforts on behalf of indigenous Australians. Touring the U.S. this summer, with the nation embroiled in a bitter and heated culture war, Rudd said he is attempting to unite people with a universal message and music that he hopes will help people rise above the day-to-day battles of 2018.
“We celebrate the roots of something that’s been connecting human beings since the beginning of time — that’s music,” he said. “Our planet responds to music of all forms — whether it’s birds, wild animals, humans. Our shows are about celebrating creation.”
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