Gig Review: Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Hollywood Bowl

The Mexican acoustic guitar duo of Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, better known as Rodrigo y Gabriela, stopped off at the Hollywood Bowl July 14 as part of their summer US tour.

Aside from its beautiful Hollywood outdoor hillside setting, one of the unique aspects of this venue is its relaxed attitude toward attendees bringing their own food and liquor. This is something crowds don’t often get to do elsewhere, so it was no surprise that many members of the crowd were indulging in a bit of wining and dining with friends and family before show and during the opening acts. It made for an enjoyable setting and got everyone in the right spirit, ready and eager to enjoy the headliners.

The opening acts, Lord Huron and DeVotchka, were done by 8:45 p.m., and it was time for Rodrigo y Gabriela to take the stage. The duo appeared at 9 p.m., walked all the way up to the edge of the stage and sat down to begin their 90-minute set.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration or an overstatement to say the set was magical; the sheer range of musicianship they displayed on those acoustic guitars was incredible. Not only was their guitar playing impressive, but they also tapped on the guitars' bodies, using them as percussion instruments.

The set included songs from all their studio albums, plus some new, unreleased material. These new songs sounded more intense than anything they’ve put out so far and treated this very well-behaved and appreciative crowd to a teaser for the next album, which is due in 2014.

Both Rodrigo and Gabriela got their solo time on stage too, during which they showcased their individual talents. Gabriela was somewhat avant garde in her approach, particularly with her use of a wah pedal with an acoustic guitar. Rodrigo was more about the crowd interaction as he stepped outside the stage and walked along the wall that separated the front of the audience section from the rest of the crowd, even as he continued playing the guitar. For a couple of songs they were joined by piano player Alex Wilson, who provided a slightly different, symphonic touch to their set, albeit briefly.

In addition to earning the admiration of this enormous audience, they induced some laughter when they addressed the crowd in their slightly broken English. For the duo to maintain the attention of a usually hard-to-please Hollywood crowd throughout this performance was no mean feat. The crowd was in complete silence during the softer, quieter parts of the music and followed the duo’s cue when they were asked to clap along or stand up.

The performance was enhanced by the use of multi-angled visuals that were projected on to the walls of the giant Hollywood Bowl stage as well as on the screens either side of it. All in all, this was a mesmerizing musical exhibition by Rodrigo y Gabriela, and this reviewer enjoyed this version of their live show much more than the orchestrated version from two years ago, simply because it was just them this time.

There really is no accurate genre or term to justifiably define the extent of this duo’s range of musicianship, with touches of Latin rock, jazz, metal, folk and so much more. Even for fans of "heavier" music, Rodrigo y Gabriela’s live music comes across in a manner that makes it as heavy, intense and extreme as anything else out there. If this isn’t true talent, what is?

Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website — with the help of a small group of people. He briefly moved away from the Los Angeles scene and explored metal in India, but he is now back in LA continuing from where he left off.

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