When I told people I was going to see Rodrigo y Gabriela in concert, not everyone had heard of them. Normally when people describe the duo’s music to a metal crowd, they’ll reference the Metallica covers to give the band credence, which often leads to comparisons with Apocalytipca. Whilst there is certainly a appeal in hearing anthemic metal tracks redone on a nylon guitar, mixing classical and rhythmic styles to achieve a unique ‘flamencoesque’ style (but definitely not flamenco, as they are keen to point out), Rodrigo y Gabriela seem to be eager to show people that they are more than just a novelty act. They come from a true metal heritage and they are not afraid to put their own twist on things.
I’ve seen them play live three times prior to their performance at Koko, each occasion being a truly memorable experience for me. So now, right before the release of their sophomore album, would the appeal still be there or had the novelty worn off? There music had as much energy as ever before, and I don’t think I’ve seen the pair enjoy their set as much as they did at Koko. It felt like the ‘novelty’ aspect of there show was no longer there, with Orion being the only full cover song they played (in my opinion it is a track that is more suited to Rodrigo y Gabriela’s style than Metallica’s anyway). As an encore they played the first minute of Stairway to Heaven, but added a new twist to the distinctive classic. At some point during the gig Rodrigo and Gabriela had their moment in the spotlight, with the other leaving the stage to allow them the space to do a little solo. This gave us the opportunity to appreciate the distinctive approach they each take., Gabriela playing her signature percussive style of guitar playing whilst Rodrgio stood to run through a number of different solos at high speed, including Atman, a track they released as a free download that featured Alex Skolnick (the free download was dedicated to Dimebag Darrell). The setlist also featured a slew of new tracks as well as some new tricks they pulled out. During one track Rodrigo pulled out a cahone at took over percussive duties for a while, freeing up Gabriela so she could break out some interesting riffs. Rodrigo utilised pedals and effects more than before and he made much more use of the stage than previously, often wandering round during tracks or sitting at the edge of the stage to play Logos, one of the slower numbers from the new album. For me they really stepped outside the realms of being a novelty act and showed that their creative can carry them forward as a band and their music can easily stand on its own merits. Their banter was lovely and endearing, and gave an insight into the differences in the recording processes between their debut and the new album, and they engaged the crowd more than ever before. In the past the crowd would be invited to shout ‘Hey!’ in time with the music, this gig that gave different sections of the audience different rhythms to either clap or click depending on the song.
Which leads me to the other aspect of the gig that impressed me almost as much as Rodrigo y Gabriela. I’ve been to many gigs this year, but the audience at Koko was the best at holding a steady tempo, often through entire songs. The whole evening was an impressive spectacle from everyone involved, especially Rodrigo y Gabriela. Their new album 11:11 is out now!