There is no doubt that Rodrigo y Gabriela put everything into their performance at Symphony Hall tonight.
With the release of 9 Dead Alive this year, the Birmingham venue is full tonight. And this evening, we witness the acoustic guitarists play the complex and pounding metal-flamenco that fans are still dumbfounded by
Gabriela’s percussive and thumping rhythms interwoven with intricate string work never ceases to amaze. With Rodrigo’s cyclical constructions, the two are a live force to be reckoned with, and will undoubtedly stay at the top of festival bills for years to come.
Unlike prior shows the duo are doing things a little differently tonight. They have chosen to speak much more than they ever have in between performances. This only ever adds to their likeability, as they recall busking stories from Ireland and Barcelona, as well as the first time they played Birmingham in the Glee Club years ago.
From their most recent release, Quintero and Sanchez take on Torito, all Metallica-esque heavy riffs accompanied by sprightly, string-bending fretwork. Rodrigo’s slithering beer bottle slide makes a welcome return on this track.
Rodrigo asks the crowd, “We got any metal heads in tonight?”The question soon extends to an invite on stage. Several fans from the front rows jump up on stage to bask in the adrenaline rush of accomplished musicians playing before an audience, and, of course, to get that all-important selfie with Gabriela.
What is so appealing about the guitarists, and what really draws people in, is their humility – the way that the two are both so talented and have crafted something truly unique but still have the unpretentiousness to invite their fans up on stage, and interact with them so intimately and open-heartedly.
Tonight’s set is plucked from the crowd. Sanchez and Quintero offer up their back catalogue to the darkness to have shouts of familiar song titles thrown back at them. The informality of interaction between artist and crowd makes for a more relaxed atmosphere, somewhat due to the fact that the seated venue forces the duo to work harder to break down that barrier between stage and seats. Rodrigo and Gabriela storm through Orion and Stairway to Heaven and compliment these favourites with the beautifully intricate Russian Messenger, from their most recent release. Gabriela plays every single inch of her guitar, as Rodrigo’s pummeling chords and arpeggios dance amidst the pummeling percussion.
I must admit that the crowd feel a little jaded, far too quiet and far too still for my liking. Rodrigo even recognizes the fact saying, “ I feel like I should be giving a lecture in here. I think maybe I should watch my mouth…fuck that.”
Despite the fact that the fans are being far too polite tonight, the duo finally get people up from their seats and dancing in the aisles whilst they played fan-favourite, Tamacun.
The Symphony Hall shouts and stomps its approval at the stage as the counter melodies of each guitar is captured by cameras and projected behind the duo onstage.
To finish up Rodrigo thanks the crowd and surprisingly begins to sing Sabbath’s War Pigs, only for it to be cut short. The duo toys with the crowd offering up snippets of Sabbath and Pink Floyd, to finally rest on a version of Radiohead’s Creep.
The song continues to reverberate throughout Symphony Hall long after it finishes, as Gabriela holds her guitar triumphantly overhead and Rodrigo shakes hands with each person he can reach from the stage.
Photographs: Steve Roche