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Rodrigo Y Gabriela: Caught live at Shepherd's Bush Empire

Rodrigo Y Gabriela

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

AT A TIME when the Kaiser Chiefs are lamenting “everything is average nowadays”, it’s hard to find anything that can truly be described as unique. Everything seems to conform to something nowadays, whether it’s post-punk, nu-metal, punk-pop or troubadour style singer-songwriting.

Thank heavens, then, for Mexican duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela who rate among the most exciting, talented and (yes) unique musicians working today.

In album form, their music is quite often breathtaking. It may be instrumentally-based but their guitar-playing brilliance confidently combines flamenco flavour with their metal roots and anything else they can think of tossing in.

In live form, it’s even better still. I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely astounded by what I was witnessing on stage. But at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Friday, May 25, 2007, on the final night of a three-night residency, Rodrigo Y Gabriela provided a dazzling, often awe-inspiring showcase of their skills.

At this point, I must confess that I missed out on their self-titled album last year, so pondered whether much of the music might fly over my head. But I need not have feared.

Whether you have a long-time appreciation of their music or not, Rodrigo Y Gabriela know how to entertain and from 9pm until roughly 10.45pm they held me captivated.

Each thrilling guitar piece was a masterpiece in the making – a sonic piece of wizardry that teased the eyes, tantalised the ears and sent shivers dancing down your spine.

Whether it was Gabriela’s dizzying slight of hand, or Rodrigo’s intricate note playing, this duo had you hooked whether you were a first-time newcomer or a die-hard veteran.

The way they both work their guitars is nothing short of magic, as is the way they stretch their sound.

Gabriela is equally adept at strumming as she is at using the wooden surround as a percussion, her knuckles dancing across the wood like a giddy ballerina at times. But what could sound like a racket is delivered with both speed and grace to emerge as something quite beautiful to behold. Her handiwork is entrancing.

Rodrigo, meanwhile, caresses the strings of his guitar like some Latin sex God seducing his lover, teasing listeners with the promise of what is to come before letting go with geuine passion and verve.

And when they’re not playing, their camaraderie is equally as enchanting, interacting with the crowd nicely to create a genuine party atmosphere.

The music itself confidently mixed flamenco and Latin American guitar flavour with everything from metal to The White Stripes and Pink Floyd. But you had to pay attention to catch everything, with the odd cheeky pop culture reference merged momentarily with album offerings such as Tamacun and Orion (in itself a cover of the classic Metallica number).

Occasionally, the crowd had the opportunity to provide Rodrigo Y Gabriela with the vocals they were missing – most notably on a beautiful version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and The Eagles’ Hotel California.

But they also had the chance to deliver a spirited “hey” or “ole” whenever Rodrigo conducted them to do so with a furious wave of his arm above his head.

And then came the icing on the cake, their much-celebrated and quite thrilling take on Stairway To Heaven – a marvellous fusion of classic rock anthem and Latin rhythm that never fails to whip the crowd into a frenzy.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Rodrigo Y Gabriela live and in the flesh then you’re truly missing out on something special. Friday night at Shepherd’s Bush will be among the most fondly remembered of my year and I cannot wait to see them again.

Read our review of the LP

  1. Caught these guys live on the Wednesday night of their Shep Bush residency and the vibe was similarly cool. If you get chance to see them, then rush to do so. They truly are special and – as Jack states – unique. Muse fans are in for a treat later this summer…

    Ramone    Jun 2    #