Rodrigo y Gabriela House of Blues September 2, 2010
For more photos from Thursday's show, see our slideshow here.
Aftermath is not going to lie. Thursday night was about as cold as we've ever gone into a concert. We knew next to nothing about Rodrigo y Gabriela besides the fact that they are a male-female duo from down Mexico way. We glanced at the article in Wednesday's Houston Chronicle (via the San Antonio Chronicle, sorry, Express-News) that played up R&G's mutual metalhead past, but really the only reason they registered on our radar at all was because visa problems forced them to cancel an ACL or SXSW appearance a few years back. We can't even remember which one it was.
We assumed there would be singing. There wasn't. There was plenty of talking, but it was a Thursday night in Houston, Texas, so that's nothing new. When the duo came out shortly after 9 p.m. and we realized we were in for 90 minutes of instrumental acoustic-guitar duets, Aftermath was not optimistic. "Shoot me now," is how we put it in one early text message. And yet Thursday wound up being perhaps the most entertaining show we have seen at House of Blues since the venue opened a little less than two years ago.
It wasn't just us, either. Thursday was Rodrigo y Gabriela's first visit to Houston, and they apologized for taking so long to get here (something we have been noticing more and more, but that's a story for a different time). HOB's Music Hall wasn't quite full, but it was close, and by the end of the night the audience had STFU (thank God) and was clapping and stamping along like the final minutes of a tense soccer match.
All it took was instrumental chops that "virtuosic" wouldn't even begin to cover, and a chemistry between the duo so strong you could almost see the endorphins shooting out of them like tracers. Some neo-classical passages were as delicate and lovely as glass figurines; their metal tribute, complete with Rodrigo Sanchez going completely double-kick-drum on his acoustic, was as fast and furious as Slayer.
We swear we even heard some bluegrass in there - any style that gives pride of place to serious pickin', in other words, and Thursday the duo proved they're not that far apart at all, no matter their country of origin. At one point Aftermath was completely transfixed watching Gabriela Quintero's hand flit up and down her guitar's fingerboard like a hummingbird.
There was enough mariachi flair between the two that Robert Rodriguez ought to seriously consider giving Rodrigo y Gabriela a call to score his next movie. Other allusions their 90-minute maelstrom triggered, at least in our minds, were "Flight of the Bumblebee," Pink Floyd - courtesy "11:11," the Floyd tribute on R&G's 2009 album of the same name - Andres Segovia, Dick Dale, the Gipsy Kings, Hendrix, those creepy Universal/Hammer horror-flick soundtracks (layered with serious fuzz), and thanks to generous use of a wah-wah pedal, Isaac Hayes' "Theme From Shaft." Shut yo mouth!
Take a bow, guys.
Personal Bias: Zilch. Aftermath would much rather form our first impressions of a band live than from a CD we get in the mail. Luckily, we don't get that many CDs in the mail anymore.
The Crowd: Typical HOB corporate chatty Cathys, tilting male and Latino (surprise), and as blown away as we were by the end of the night.
Overheard in the Crowd: "What about the Gator?" Said by a woman who proceeded to demonstrate a hand signal we guess is a common sight at University of Florida football games.
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Random Notebook Dump: What is the name of that '60s guitar instrumental that showed up in about every other movie trailer about 10 or 15 years ago? (For some reason, we remember it from Rob Reiner's The Story of Us.) It doesn't matter anyway, because Rodrigo y Gabriela blew it out of the water.
Also: We hope opener Bobby Long (above) comes back soon. We also hope it's somewhere his stout and sultry acoustic songs can actually be heard, like the Mucky Duck.