Rodrigo y Gabriela
Wednesday, August 13
The Fillmore Miami Beach
Better Than: The smooth-jazz pap often foisted upon "world music" fans.
The Review: "Feel free to do crazy shit, encouraged Gabriela, of the Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, to the fawning crowd assembled at the Fillmore Miami Beach last night. "Crazy" here ended up meaning particularly boisterous rhythmic clapping, but the two axe whizzes still provided some captivating moments for this eclectic bunch. An only-in-Miami motley crew, the audience comprised everyone from teenage parking lot metalheads, to guitar store geeks, to polished princesses in floor-length "bohemian" dresses, to groovy dads who kept nudging their kids for emphasis during particularly trenchant solos.
These came frequently, although they were sometimes buried in long passages of Latin-inflected noodling. Of course, this is part of Rodrigo y Gabriela's charm -- they're accessible to said groovy dads, but still manage to throw in passaged that nod to their metal past. These were the most exciting parts of the show, which, when combined with the bold, but judiciously used, flashing-light backdrop, took on the feel of a true rock event. Other times, long stretches of pieces of similar rhythm served well to showcase self-taught, virtuosic playing, but blended into more of a backdrop of "nice" music.
That said, there were a few notable points in the show.
Funny, LOL @ Slow Crowds Point: With only the two of them onstage, for percussion, Rodrigo y Gabriela famously tap and bang on the bodies of their guitars. But they also (at least try) to use intricate patterns of crowd clapping. At one point, Rodrigo instructed my part of the crowd to execute three steady claps, then the center section, one, and the other side, two. Most people didn't get it, though, mimicking him instead as he moved and switched it up, and the whole thing disintegrated in about a minute.
Spinal Tap Point: While gimmicky tricks were thankfully few and far between, Rodrigo did, at one point, use an almost-full beer bottle as a slide up his guitar's neck.
Low, Obvious Point: During one lull, a guy in a (possibly Hawaiian) shirt called out, "Wish You Were Here!"
"Good call, bro!" chimed in another, uh, bro nearby.
No, no, no, that can't be a possibility, I silently prayed. Hawaiian Shirt must be psychic, though, because it was then that the pair launched into their very own Pink Floyd cover. Dammit! Acoustic and/or "global" Floyd covers have been done so often, they make me want to cry -- especially since they always spur on a mass "meaningful" singalong. I even saw some lighters up -- blech. More heavy, less overdone proto-prog, please.
High Points: These came when Rodrigo y Gabriela came back around to doing what sets them apart from the flourish-y guitar pack: mixing in the heavier stuff of their musical roots. Often, this just happened with a reference to a melody -- bits of, say, "Smoke on the Water" or "Stairway to Heaven" here, a whole lot of various Metallica numbers there. But sometimes, these exploded into full-on riffage, buoyed by the acoustic guitar's warm fullness, and strange, electric-like effects achieved by playing high on the neck and finger-plucking the strings. Towards the end of the hour-and-a-half-long set, the diehard metal fans in the crowd even got tossed a bone in the way of a Slayer workout -- instrumental, of course, like all of Rodrigo y Gabriela's songs. It's at these points that the two come closest to forging a new genre, and when they reach their most exciting.
Personal Bias: When Rodrigo asked, "Are there any metalheads in here?" I clapped in moral support, a weak little addition to a surprisingly soft smattering of applause.
Random Detail: Photography restrictions be damned, I have a feeling this whole thing will wind up on YouTube any second now, courtesy of the guy standing in front of me.
By the Way: Rodrigo y Gabriela head back to the studio this September to work on a follow-up to their 2006 self-titled record.