Listen to Rodrigo Y Gabriela on Rhapsody

Words by: Eamon Foley :: Images by: Rod Snyder

Rodrigo Y Gabriela :: 04.16.07 :: Webster Hall :: New York, NY

Gabriela Quintero :: 04.16
Plectrums are so last year. Rodrigo Y Gabriela are the vanguard of a movement where anything goes – fingernails, palms, backs of hands, beer bottles and more. Stunning guitar duo Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero burst through New York, bringing a Latin fervor and warmth to the bitterly cold, storm-drenched city.

Despite being seated for pretty much the entire show with just a pair of acoustic guitars, Rodrigo Y Gabriela served up one of the most energetic and passionate performances I’ve ever seen. After emigrating to Europe from Mexico, they made their name busking on cold, winter street corners. Now based in Ireland, they refer regularly to the likes of Megadeth and Testament as their primary influences. They bridge the divide between metal and jazz, which this night included an incredible, jazzy version of Metallica‘s “Orion.”

Rodrigo Y Gabriela :: 04.16
Alex Skolnick of speed metal godfathers Testament joined them for the encore. The mutual respect was clear, each showing pleasure in sharing the stage. Apparently, they met for the first time the day of the show yet played like bandmates of old on Dave Brubeck‘s “Take Five,” jamming their way off into the distance, playing off each other, every now and again returning to the core of the song.

The celebrity guest appearance was fun but greatly overshadowed by Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s main performance, which strongly resisted the predictable, actively veering off into exciting territory, one note at a time but played at lightning speed.

Rodrigo Sanchez :: 04.16
They claimed, this being their first night on tour, they had no set list. Taking the stage, they asked, “What do you wanna hear?” They played tracks from their latest, self-titled album as well as older material from Re-Foc. Years of strumming together means they know each other’s game inside out. They alternately duel, follow each other’s leads or play in unison, drawing the crowd into a magical mystery tour of music inspired by jazz, metal and their Latin background (but not flamenco they vehemently insist).

To call what they do strumming just doesn’t do them justice. They play in a way that makes you wonder where their backing band is hidden. Where’s the army of drummers and who’s playing the bass? They use their guitars and their space as they see fit – Gabriela thumping her feet on the stage, flicking and plucking the strings with fingernails and her entire hand, Rodrigo turning his instrument on its side and back, wasting not an inch of string or wood.

Gabriela Quintero :: 04.16
Their craft is flawless yet appears careless. It’s become natural, honed through years of dedication (Gabriela called herself “addicted” at one point). Their joy at being on tour was evident throughout the show. The duo displays contrasting body language. Gabriela plays with animated concentration, eyes closed, biting on her lip, nurturing her guitar, while Rodrigo is all smiles, head-banging, arms flailing and baiting the crowd like a matador with a bull.

Demonstrating a wicked sense of humor, they made fun of the weather, the crowd (“Any real Irish here?”) and the Department of Justice – the source of Rodrigo’s recent visa troubles. After discussing their roots in the metal scene, they played a moving version of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” where, unprompted, the rowdy sold out crowd provided the vocals.

Rodrigo Sanchez :: 04.16
Whilst their flair is at times astounding, their sound and visual crew also work wonders. The sound is immense – much louder and more tangible than two guitarists would suggest – and they play to a backdrop of live images projected on the wall. Beamed in grainy black and white, these close-ups further reveal the skill of these two magicians. I caught myself on more than one occasion mesmerized by the video show – watching them slack-jawed as one hand danced frantically over the sound hole and the other glided casually up and down the neck.

All I can say is “Wow.” If you’re lucky enough to be in the vicinity of one of their shows, I implore you to go. They leave you dancing from first pluck to last, helplessly grinning and shaking your head in disbelief.

JamBase | New York
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