Rodrigo y Gabriela. Photo Courtesy rodgab.com
Our neighbors to the South are notorious for producing spicy food, dance-inducing libations and soulful music. Mexican culture is pervasive in the United States and the performers from the country bring unique sounds that inspire and uplift. Famed guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela graced SLC for the first time in their more than decade long history. The venue could not have been more perfect for this genre of music: Latin-inspired rock n' roll and powerful Spanish guitar riffs. Nestled in the bosom of the Wastach, Red Butte Garden provides the audience with a connection to nature and music. The crowd gathered on the lawn and many bottles of wine and beer were shared among friends new and old--a great way to meet people or share an intimate evening with a loved one.
A small-time pianist by the name of Alex Wilson opened up the evening with his instrumental renditions of Metallica's Enter Sandman and Fade to Black. He's been on tour with Rodrigo y Gabriela for the last two years and he noted that the SLC crowd had, “A palpable enthusiasm and love for music.” His charming accent warmed up the crowd and got everyone excited for the main act.
Just as the sun dipped below the horizon and the surrounding peaks turned a delicate shade of purple, the lights flipped on and the performers took center stage. They started things off with a slow and melodic tune from their 11:11 album. Situated on a small brick bench, the two guitarists primed the audience for the excitement to come. My fiancee and I sipped on our beverages and relaxed as the harmonious tunes mixed with the summer splendor and cool evening air. Storm clouds built on the ridge lines and a certain primordial energy began to fill the venue.
The duo immediately turned up the volume and got the crowd on their feet with heart-thumping acoustic riffs and complex tones. Their passion was evident and they fed off of each other to continue amping up the concert-goers. I found myself drumming to the beat and was excited to finally see these guys live. Settling the tempo back a few notches, they introduced themselves and thanked everyone for coming to support their music. Rodrigo mentioned that, “We should be fucking recording and not on tour, but we love this.” His counterpart, Gabriela, chimed in and said, “We are going to play our new songs and test them out on you guys.” Rodrigo jumped back in and said, “If they are complete shit, we won't record them.”
Back to rocking, they began a short set of throwback tunes from their Rodrigo y Gabriela album. Each song built on the stoke and the crowd erupted in cheers. We immediately ditched our seats on the western side of the amphitheater and hustled to front row center. Being immersed in the action is the only true way to see these two. The strobe lights casting long shadows on the sea of faces complemented the scene. Several new songs came blasting out of the speakers and the guitarists stood facing each other, axes crossed. They broke into instrumental sensations and continued to bring their flavor of music to the masses. Some darker and medieval sounds interwined with the soulful strumming of guitars. By 10:30 p.m. they had played two full sets and the audience begged for an encore. Not wanting to disappoint, they jetted back on stage to finish us off. Diablo Rojo grabbed everyone's attention and even Alex Wilson joined them in the finale. It was a visceral experience that will be with me for a long while.
Check out more on Rodrigo y Gabriela here.