Rodrigo y Gabriela @ Vic Theatre

May 4th, 2007

This was the first show I’ve ever bought tickets for on ebay. I’d already seen Rodrigo y Gabriela before (for free, no less!) at the Old Town School of Folk Music, but between then and now, I’d really grown to like their album a whole lot more. I didn’t buy tickets immediately because the concert was the night before I was scheduled to photograph my cousin’s wedding, and by the time I was sure there would be no conflict with that, the show was sold out. I still didn’t really care that much, but then I saw stuff like this video of ‘Diablo Rojo’ (where the crowd is just going insane), and read reviews of this tour with quotes like “the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard”, and I figured I needed to see them at a non-sit-down place. Plus, I saw that their entire US tour was sold out, and since I tend to avoid arena shows, I thought it might be my last chance to see them.

Opening act was Krystle Warren, a solo modern-blues-woman with acoustic guitar. She had one hell of a voice, but her songs were a bit boring. I’d be interested to see her fronting a whole band, where I think she’d do a lot better. She ended her set with the two most intense numbers (including a badass take on ‘Eleanor Rigby’), which woke the crowd up pretty well. Unfortunately for her, I think she needs to either grow her hair out, or wear some pink or something, because I overheard more than one group around me comment afterwards: “hey, he was pretty good…”

Then came Rodrigo and Gabriela: just two people, two acoustic guitars, and two mismatched chairs, sitting alone on a stage built on top of the stage. They did have a large projection screen behind them, showing artfully-reproduced close-ups and wide-angle shots of the two as they played.

They had the whole crowd in the palm of their hand from the first note. Early on, they said some nonsense about “not following a setlist on this tour”. But it was pretty clear that they knew exactly what they were doing and had everything planned out quite strictly, in spite of Gabriela’s hilarious, rambling, and “fookin’-” filled story-telling. When they finally got to ‘Diablo Rojo’, the crowd wasn’t whipped into quite the frenzy seen in that video, but it was pretty close, and they left the stage to the loudest ‘encore!’ cheer I can remember. Then coming back, they closed their encore with their big radio single, ‘Tamacun’, to an equally big cheer.

Beyond those hits, they played a good bit of their s/t album, a new one, and a collection of covers. But even their choices for covers show how calculating they are: by choosing such populist hits as Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ (with the vocals enthusiastically provided by the crowd), they risk neither boring nor offending their audience. Their metal choices showed the same pattern. Despite name-checking influences like Testament, Sepultura, and Slayer, they drew exclusively from the far more popular Metallica (ok, Rodrigo teased a couple bars of Iron Maiden). While again it makes sense for their goal of pleasing a wide audience, it sure would be nice to hear them play some Megadeth or something (which would be a better match for their skills anyway). Still, that’s only a small gripe, and while I probably won’t pay that much money to see them again, it was worth it this time around.