[ATTENDED, July 30, 2014] Rodrigo y Gabriela
I first saw Rodrigo y Gabriela on a Tiny Desk Concert and I was blown away. I knew I had to see these two live. Rodrigo has a heavy metal background (I didn’t realize that Gabriela was in the heavy metal band Tierra Acida with him). But even with that background, who knew that two people with acoustic guitars could be so loud! And our seats were terrific, row S, dead center. Very nice indeed.
Holy smokes, the two of them came out and just blew us away. They opened with “The Soundmaker” (and really that’s about all I can do in terms of order of songs). And it sounded louder and more amazing than it does on record. Although, minor gripe, Gabriela’s guitar has a microphone in it and the bass (which I gather she made by banging on the body of the guitar) was mixed way too loud for the first three songs. They fixed that for the next batch and then they sounded phenomenal.
After the first three songs (which included a bit of “stairway to Heaven” done in their own style), Gabriela talked to us a bit (while the guitars were tuned, I assume), and then they went back to the music.
Their stage set with pretty minimal–some bright lights on little stands (which were very cool actually). But it didn’t matter, the two of them are electric on stage–whether it’s Rodrigo’s heavy metal stances or Gabriela’s pogoing, they are in constant motion. About midway through the show they started using the projection screen behind them (at least I didn’t see any before that). In addition to some interesting imagery, they also projected close ups of their guitars (I think from small cameras in front of them and from small cameras on the heads of their guitars). I enjoyed that the images were low res and that they were staticy from time to time–it took any kind of preciousness away and made it look less like they were showing of their virtuosity and more like an interesting image to watch.
After the second set of songs, Rodrigo did a solo section. He played some very nice flamenco guitar and some rocking solo sections. Even though he is an amazing guitarist I actually enjoyed this part of the show least because I like the way they play off each other more than I like them individually.
Later in the set Gabriela had a solo section. Her solo was a bit more interesting to watch because I find her guitar playing style to be mesmerizing and completely incomprehensible. I loved watching her right hand rapidly moving back and forth, using her fingers on the strings, batting the drum with her thumb or knuckles, and playing heavy rhythm like no one I’ve ever seen. her hand must be one huge callous.
Some other songs they played were “Torito,” “Sunday Neurosis” (it was alarming when the spoken voices came out of the speakers) and “Misty Moses” (which I learned is dedicated to Harriet Tubman–I also learned that all of the songs on their new album are dedicated to an inspirational figure, guess I should read the liner notes, huh?).
They may have also played “Santo Domingo” (it’s hard to tell, I admit). But they definitely played Metallica’s “Orion.” When I first heard that they played Metallica songs, I was really surprised, and I couldn’t wait to hear their take on this instrumental. And they played a great version of it. But what I found was that this song was the weakest one in their entire set. I’ve always liked Metallica’s lengthy instrumentals, but they don’t hold a candle to Rod y Gab’s original songs.
Speaking of covers, about 3/4 of the way through the show, Rodrigo did a “karaoke” section, which was lighthearted and a lot of fun. He played Stone Temple Pilot’s “Plush” although he didn’t sing a word–the audience provided all the singing, which was really funny. About half way through, the audience lost the plot and he laughed and moved on to the next song, Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Breaking the Girl, which didn’t get quite as many singers (he had a microphone for this one, but gave up when not many people sang along). He then admitted that they usually don’t play for such a sophisticated crowd (ie. we were sitting down–except for this one poor guy who tried to get everyone up to dance many times). So he went for a song that this older generation might know (much laughter) and did Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” which was very well received until he sang “I forgot the fuckin lyrics” and we all laughed. The final song in the karaoke section was Radiohead’s “Creep” which everyone enjoyed very much.
“Fram” and “The Russian Messenger” were also both amazing–by this time the audience was practically bouncing on our seats.
The ended the set with two encores: “Hanuman” and “Tamacun.” By the encore everyone was on his feet and we were clapping and swaying like fools. It was that kind of show. Who would have thought that two guitars could produce so much. Rod y Gab really have to be seen to be believed.