Rodrigo & Gabriela – HMV Institute, Birmingham – 25th November 2012

If there’s one thing needed on a cold, wet winter’s evening in Birmingham, it’s some duelling acoustic guitars by some incredibly talented Mexican musicians. Luckily, Rodrigo & Gabriela are in town.

I first saw Rod & Gab almost a decade ago when they opened for Damien Rice in London and I was blown away by their musicianship and how they filled the room with a sound which seemed so much bigger than the sum of its parts. After starting their careers playing in thrash metal bands, their sound still incorporates elements of that sound, which gives the songs an energy not found in similar acoustic acts. They’ve famously covered Led Zeppelin and Metallica, and were once even joined on stage by Metallica bassist, Rob Trujillo. Tonight, that energy isn’t always at the forefront.

The set begins with the duo playing together silhouetted behind a white curtain which drops to reveal a simple stage set and Rod & Gab facing each other battling it out. They begin on a typically upbeat number and it’s these more lively numbers which seem to go down the best with tonight’s audience. They introduce quite a few new songs this evening, one of which is possibly the heaviest track they’ve written as a duo. They seem to be experimenting with their sound a little and that’s something to applaud. For me though, there are a few too many slower, almost jam-like numbers which lose the momentum for too long. At no point is the skill of the musicians anything less than astounding but, as a visual spectacle, it can sometimes seem lacking.

Rodrigo & Gabriela each get their chance to shine in the spotlight, and the addition of keyboard player, Alex Wilson, during the second half of the set adds some depth to their sound. But it’s always the moments when the duo return to an uptempo, stomping tune that the energy in the room noticeably shifts, with whoops and claps from the crowd and Gabriela spinning and jumping around the stage. This is where we see them at their impressive best, hammering out the rhythms and duelling with each other in spectacular style. Nowhere is this more brilliantly showcased than the finale of Tamacun which has the crowd moving en masse and sees Rod & Gab beating the life out of their guitars in one last showdown. Superb.

Rodrigo & Gabriela are certainly a band which have to be witnessed live to be fully appreciated. Maybe tonight the set didn’t always have the energy I’ve witnessed at previous gigs but they still set the standard when it comes to this genre of music.

Review & photos – Steve Gerrard



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