Rodrigo y Gabriela: Taking Guitar-Playing Back To Its Roots

Review & photos by Andrew Bansal

May 7th 2014, The Palladium, Hollywood CA: When one thinks of the acoustic/classical guitar as an instrument, he or she might not necessarily associate it with hard rock or heavy metal music, but as has been proven by some of the most legendary guitarists to have ever graced our favorite genre, there is no denying that the roots of electric guitar-playing lie in the classical guitar and there’s none better to demonstrate that than the Mexican duo of Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, who on their classical guitars present a style of musicianship that comes across as a fusion of various elmenets and appeals to a broad range of audiences, but is inspired by classic rock and old-school heavy metal.

Having been around for nearly 14 years now, the duo released their fourth studio album ‘9 Dead Alive’ on April 28th. Their first album in five years, it’s an aptly titled celebration of some revolutionary individuals that passed away, and the duo embarked on a run of US dates to present some of its material live. They played two back-to-back Los Angeles shows, first at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown LA and then the Palladium in the heart of Hollywood, which is the show I got a chance to attend.

They played as many as six ‘9 Dead Alive’ tunes, and based on these live renditions it’s clearly noticeable that the album brings out a more rock-oriented side of Rodrigo and Gabriela’s creativity as compared to some of the more Latin-based creations in past albums, and along with the typically beautiful rhythms and harmonies, it certainly has a healthy dosage of heavier parts as well, which stand out to an even greater degree in the live setting. At this show, these new tracks were accompanied by visual patterns running through a projection screen in the backdrop, adding an element that hasn’t been a feature of the ‘Rod-Gab’ show in the past and making it a wholesome audio-visual experience for the paying attendee.

Besides their awe-inspiring riffs, solos and rhythms on the guitar, their usage of the acoustic guitar’s body for percussion is perhaps as enjoyable as the guitar-playing itself, and it shows their true talent and expertise on the instrument wherein they’ve taken it to such a level that they’ve been able to carve out a niche all by themselves as a mere two-piece act, treating audiences with a musical exhibition that is in every way as strong as that of a conventional band with 3, 4 or more members.

And of course, the performance comprised plenty of older material, including the odd cover or two. Their version of Metallica’s ‘Orion’ drew huge cheers from the metalheads in the crowd and is, in all honesty, the best version of the song you’ll hear from anyone these days. Later in the set, their cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, complete with Rodrigo’s vocal delivery, got a majority of the audience singing along. They ended with an encore performance of ‘Tamacun’, a tune off of the 2010 self-titled album, and they waved goodbye while AC/DC’s ‘For Those About To Rock’ was played on the PA.

In addition to their musicianship, they endeared the crowd whenever they spoke, and all in all, their show was undoubtedly worth the money and time spent by everyone in attendance. There’s certainly more to Rodrigo y Gabriela’s music than meets the eye, and the duo’s love for rock and metal bleeds through their compositions, as is clear from their salutes to artists like Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Santana, Zeppelin, Dave Mustaine, Metallica, Dimebag Darrell, their on-stage jams with musicians like Alex Skolnick and Robert Trujillo, and their involvement as guest musicians on studio albums for bands like Death Angel. There’s more than plenty in Rodrigo y Gabriela’ music for the open-minded metalhead to appreciate, and to all readers of Metal Assault, I strongly recommend giving their music a listen, or better yet, attending one of their live shows.

Check out more photos from the show below, or view them here if you’re on a non-Flash device:

Rodrigo y Gabriela links: 

Set List:
01. The Soundmaker
02. Santo Domingo
03. Diablo Rojo
04. Sunday Neurosis
05. Misty Moses
06. Jam
07. Torito
08. Rodrigo solo
09. Chac Mool
10. Russian Messenger
11. Orion (Metallica cover)
12. Gabriela solo
13. FRAM
14. Creep (Radiohead cover)
15. Ixtapa
16. Savitri
17. Hanuman
18. Tamacun

Remaining US tour dates:
05/09 – Fox Theater – Oakland CA
05/11 – Paramount Theatre – Seattle WA
07/25 – XPoNential Music Festival @ Wiggins Park – Camden, NJ
07/26 – Believe in Music Festival – Cockeysville, MD
07/27 – Newport Folk Festival – Newport, RI
07/30 – State Theatre – New Brunswick, NJ
07/31 – Filene Center At Wolf Trap – Vienna, VA
08/01 – Gathering of the Vibes Festival – Bridgeport, CT
08/05 – Greenfield Lake Amphiteater – Wilmington, NC
08/06 – The Fillmore Charlotte – Charlotte, NC
08/08 – Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN
08/10 – Iroquois Amphitheater – Louisville, KY
08/13 – Meijer Gardens – Grand Rapids, MI
08/14 – Riverside Theater – Milwaukee, WI
08/15 – Aragon Ballroom – Chicago, IL
08/17 – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO

Hollywood Palladium links: