Some concerts are good fun but become forgettable sometime later, others are memorable for all the wrong reasons and more still can impress you at the time but later you come to feel indifferent about them. Enter the phenomenal Rodrigo y Gabriela. A few days after checking them out live for the first time I am still utterly spellbound by their performance this week at the mighty Royal Albert Hall. A few factors will help set the scene for what I was about to experience; growing up with a charismatic classical Spanish guitar-playing Grandfather has given me a love of the acoustic sound from an early age; the venue has been my favourite place to see live music since a trip to see Eric Clapton with my Dad in my pre teens – it’s a magical and historic venue that still feels both eventful yet intimate; the atmospheric touch of pumping incense into the crowd as the duo took to the stage.
I first encountered these Mexican virtuosos on TV when they appeared on a guitar special of Later with Jools Holland last year. Having never come across them until that point I became mesmerized by their performance on the show; intense, focused, immensely dedicated and cool. Exploring further, I learnt from friends who had caught them at Glastonbury in previous years about their formation as teenagers in their native Mexico City, their roots in heavy metal and their busking days then eventual discovery on Grafton Street in Dublin only a few years ago. Since then they have taken the festival circuit by storm, recording several albums (notably 2006’s Rodrigo y Gabriela and 2012’s collaboration with C.U.B.A., Area 52) and even co-scored and recorded the last Pirates of the Caribbean film On Stranger Tides with Zans Zimmer in 2011. It’s a meteoric rise for two jobbing musicians and the kind that can only happen with a certain level of extreme talent, hard work, lucky breaks and seized opportunities.
Fortunately for these guys all the above have come together like so many perfectly aligned stars and the results have never been on display more impressively than in a certain full capacity concert hall in South Kensington last Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Listening to them with eyes closed it’s hard to imagine there are only two young musicians on the stage. Their guitars serve them for creating simultaneous beats, melodies, bass lines, solos and even percussive sounds that make you feel there is a full band in front of you. Listening to them with eyes open it’s less hard to imagine their metal roots. Rodrigo in jeans and t shirt mocking his own hairstyle is dressed down cool; strutting around the stage in a way that will surely have him appear in the next Mariachi sequel should Robert Rodriguez elect to make another installment. Gabriela meanwhile wears her rock roots on her sleeve, or rather her hot pants and boots and she swaggers around the stage playing incredible melodies while simultaneously jumping, head banging and shaking her hair around. The duo are clearly having a blast when they perform and their enjoyment of the show completely translates to the audience. Many friends were envious that I was going to see these guys and now I know why – I’d catch them again to re-live that experience in an accelerated heartbeat.
Rodrigo y Gabriela // Royal Albert Hall 20/5/14
Words > Roy Swansborough