Rodrigo Y Gabriela @ the Ford Amphitheatre, 6/26/07
There is a myth that Blues Legend Robert Johnson met the devil at a crossroads down south and traded his soul for ungodly skill with a guitar. A few dozen years later, the devil must have gotten fed up, took a trip to Mexico for some sun and margaritas and stumbled across Rodrigo Y Gabriela. That is the only way I can explain their other-worldly talent. Both members of the duo have such skill on a classical guitar that they must have sold their souls for fast fingers and a mind-blowing sense of rhythm. Last night, they taught a class on how to rock a classical guitar at the Ford Amphitheatre.
They're show was, in a word, amazing. They took a crowd of people, sitting comfortably in their chairs, and within 5 minutes had everyone on their feet, clapping along. Throughout the entire show, it felt like Rodrigo was invested in not only giving the audience a great show, but also a great time. It wasn't uncommon for him to rise to his feet, while Gabriela drummed out percussion on the body of her guitar, and start clapping, coaxing the crowd to join in. Add to that a "Wish You Were Here" sing-along and he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Growing up in the thrash metal scene in Mexico, it took Rodrigo Y Gabriela a few years to realize they wouldn't be successful as another group of angry-sounding kids with electric guitars. They moved to Ireland, switched to classical guitars and have been blowing audiences away ever since. You could say they're a one trick pony, but its an awesome trick.
Vocalists? They don't need no stinkin' vocalists. The entire show plays out through the soundholes of their guitars. There were three lipstick cameras onstage, mounted to their equipment, trying to capture the blur of their fingers and project it on a massive sheet behind them. The effect was cool, if not a little distracting.
While Rodrigo possesses the solo guitar talent of the duo (often playing above the fretboard and using his half-empty beer bottle as a slide), the backbone of the group is Gabriela. Dressed in a "Misfits" shirt, Soft spoken and quick to throw her hands in the air, her percussive style of rhythm guitar is what hooked me. I have never seen someone's hand strum at the speed hers does to move a beat forward. The music makes you move. With the constant, pounding downbeat, you can't help but tap your foot and nod along.
Though some critics say their music is uninspired and derivative (they do play a lot of covers), it's an unfair label. Sure, they rocked a flamenco version of "Stairway to Heaven" but that doesn't take away from their talent or ability to mesmerize an audience. I judge the concerts I go to on how much fun I have, not solely on how "original" (regardless of quality) the band was. If I'm calling friends on my cell phone post-show, trying to convince them to hit itunes and pick up an album, you know I enjoyed myself. Rodrigo y Gabriella scored VERY high on that scale. For most Americans, knowledge of Flamenco guitar doesn't extend further than an Esteban informercial (which are awesome). You can count on this duo drawing more attention to the genre. Be sure to check them out at http://www.rodgab.com.