Rodrigo y Gabriela: Metal and Flamenco

September 17th, 2009

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Terminal 5 – September 16, 2009

(Photo: Dosfotos)

(Photo: Dosfotos)

It started simply enough: two chairs on a small raised platform in the middle of the Terminal 5 stage, empty except for two lone acoustic guitars. But Rodrigo y Gabriela conjured the most immense sounds from these modest instruments, bringing the packed audience to a head-bobbing frenzy. This was the opening U.S. show in support of their new album, 11:11, the follow-up to their self-titled 2006 album. Gabriela explained the gap: “We started the recording and then we didn’t like it, so we recorded again. So it was, like, another six months, and then we wanted to record at home, so we built a studio. There was all this noise and it was 40 degrees…. So it’s a very hot album. We hope you like it.”

Their unique fusion of flamenco and metal is all about the intimacy of the two guitarists and the way they complement each other. Gabriela plays completely differently from Rodrigo—extremely fast, moving from high up the fret to palm slap the bridge in the same strumming motion, or knuckle tapping the body of the guitar, all while keeping the main rhythm by barely grazing the strings. At the same time, Rodrigo works solidly on the melodies, improvising intricate parts while wandering the stage. The impressive range of sound made the two-hour performance completely engrossing. They are not just interested in the sound of a note, but every noise possible from the entire instrument, and all at breakneck speed.

Paying tribute to their metal roots, the duo frequently includes covers in their recorded material. When they asked the audience for song requests, someone shouted, “Stairway to Heaven,” an inevitable staple for any band heckler. But it made sense for once, as Rodrigo y Gabriela proceeded to play the rock standard, almost unrecognizably as their own. —Jason Dean