I WAS THERE . . . Rodrigo y Gabriela @ Terminal 5, 9/16/09

Kicking off their North American tour for their new album, 11:11, at the spacious Terminal 5, this team of acoustically minded musicians masterfully interwove breakneck tempo, pulsating bass beats, and superheated shredding solos.

Coming out of Ciudad de México’s (Mexico City) thrash metal scene before finding prominence in Ireland and Europe, Rodrigo y Gabriela’s sound is wholly synergistic. Blending classical guitar technique with cultural flamenco flair, the duo infuses this foundation with the solid beats and power chords of hard rock into a sound that comes out with a distinct worldliness about it.

Indeed, experiencing this duo’s live show, the same three words kept reverberating within me; visual, vibrant, and visceral. I stood awed at how two simple acoustic guitars could be coaxed to make such abnormal yet complimentary sounds. Both are accomplished musicians and their unity truly takes them both to a new level that allows the crowd to be fully immersed in the performance.

Rodrigo’s fingers darted over the frets, like the striking legs of a spider, and he was able to get so low on the neck as to leave the board altogether and strike out over his instrument’s body. He also made use of the body itself, slapping out conga beats to lay down rhythm during those rare moments when Gabriela took the lead.

Sitting in a chair, Gabriela leaned far over her instrument like a lover, many times her head pressed to the body. The rhythm generated by her unique style of slap-strumming as well as using her knuckles on the body to tap out staccato tempos was truly awe inspiring. The beats generated were raw and powerful while Rodrigo’s playing floated over the solid underpinning of Gabriela’s efforts to drive each composition.

The feeling in the venue was truly lovely, as both the sound and the crowd’s elation reached up to the rafters. I lost count of the times that the musicians coaxed the gathering to clap along or even hold a clapping beat that they then played over and through. A vibrant energy flowed from performers to viewers, closely connecting them. This was strengthened by the live feed cameras pointed at their shifting hands or kinetic stances of the duo which were then projected behind, serving to heighten the pace of the music.

As the duo played through their aural tributes to the music they love, one could get the sense that the crowd was lifted and inspired by the skill, power, and beauty of the music being made. The live show should not be missed because the album won’t be able to recreate the incredible vibe that will stay with you thereafter.

Kenneth Joachim

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