Last Night: Rodrigo y Gabriela at House of Blues

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Rodrigo y Gabriela
House of Blues
October 19, 2009

Better than: anything else in the flamenco-meets-rock-meets-mariachi wheelhouse

I'd heard about Rodrigo y Gabriela's ability to harness the power of a six-piece band with just two acoustic guitars, but seeing the phenomenon live was nothing short of spellbinding.

The duo--originally from Mexico and now based in Ireland--took the stage on its first visit to Dallas and immediately whipped the crowd into a jumping, clapping frenzy. The impossibly fast strumming, plucking and percussive tapping let loose such a rich and layered world of sound that it seemed as though a troop of ghosts was rocking out on invisible bongos, tambourines and maracas.

Numerous reviewers have described Gabriela Quintero's strumming, thumping hand as "hummingbird-like," and the image is apt. At one point, her fingers flew so fast that all you could see was a flesh-colored blur. Her percussive tapping--somehow simultaneous with her strumming---sounded like Fred Astaire dancing an intricate tap number in very loud shoes. Gabriela, though tiny, is the powerhouse---the one who evokes the base drum with her pounding and exhorts the crowd to shout louder and jump higher.

Rodrigo Sanchez plays the higher chord combos and seems happy to ride her wave (as any man would be), smiling as the audience freaks out over her apparent ability to defy the laws of physics and sound. Rodrigo has his own charming flair, though, such as playing slide with a Heineken bottle and managing to evoke Led Zeppelin. At one point, he hopped onto a box and began drumming while Gabriela stood next to him and made the sound of a flamenco guitarist accompanied by at least two djembes.

I was wondering if she'd make good on her reputation for Irish-accented f-bombs, and she didn't disappoint. "We took six months to record our album... because we're fuckin' crazy!" she said of 11:11, released last month. After spending months recording all of the songs, they listened to it, decided it sounded terrible, and despite the assurance of their label that it sounded "great," insisted on re-recording the entire thing using a metronome.

Near the end of the show the hard-rock flamenco turned North African Gypsy, followed by an Indian sitar sound. Then the duo brought it back around with a White Stripes cover and a nod to the band they rate among their biggest influences: Metallica.

And to wind down, they wielded their Latin and metal infusion into a rising storm of sound that stirred the young, diverse crowd into a euphoric frenzy.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
You probably wouldn't guess it from my unabashed gushing, but I love these guys. And the fact that they got their break only after paying some serious dues on dark, cold, Euro street corners just makes them cooler.

Random Note: I heard a number of drooling men fighting over who'd "called" Gabriela first. Do we women ever do that?

By The Way: There aren't too many shows where you can see fresh-faced students and clean cut professionals, wool-hat-wearing bohemians of all colors and an elderly man with a white Santa Claus beard, feather-festooned bowler hat and menacing-looking tool belt---all in one place.

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