Rodrigo y Gabriela House of Blues July 21, 2013
I've never been huge on the metal genre, always appreciative of what those musicians do, but never adapting my ears to the music's volume and intensity. Strap two acoustic guitars on some serious metal players, though, and the story changes.
Rodrigo y Gabriela found their musical roots performing black metal in Mexico before they ever thought of giving it a try as an acoustic duo. Thankfully, they did make the switch and after many successful years of touring they made their way to the big stage at House of Blues Sunday night.
The duo of Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero met in the early '90s and eventually performed in a metal band together by the name of Tierra Acida. After moving around a bit, they finally found themselves halfway across the globe on the streets of Dublin, Ireland, busking to make a living and promote their music.
Gaining a great bit of notoriety in the Dublin scene after the release of their first record, Re-Foc, they started to get bigger and bigger gigs throughout Ireland and the rest of Europe. By the time their self-titled album came out in 2006 and became their first major commercial success in America, they had been selling out large venues abroad for years.
It was right about that time when the group had the chance to play some major U.S. festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella, and their popularity spread like wildfire. I didn't get the chance to see Rod y Gab when they played HOB in September 2010, but I'm sure it was just as busy as it was Sunday night.
Arriving a bit early, to ensure parking since all the One Direction fans were taking up all of the spaces, an unexpected opener took the stage right at the designated 9 p.m. start time. I'm not going to lie, I was hoping Rod y Gab would be the only act that night, so I didn't pay much attention to the two dudes on stage. From what I could tell, it was some good folk-pop a la G. Love, but I only really listened to a song or two, not enough to warrant a proper review.
An hour later, a minute or two before 10 o'clock, the lights dimmed and Rodrigo y Gabriela happily took the stage. After a quick mistep due to some technical difficulties with Gabriela's guitar, they opened the show with a new tune followed quickly by "Diablo Roja" from their self-titled record. The crowd was clapping and stomping along almost immediately to the raucous guitar work of the skilled duo, which would become a common theme as the night went along.
Actually, I'm pretty sure the girl behind me clapped for the entire last 45 minutes of the show, an impressive feat in anyone's eyes but a bit annoying during the slow parts. At least she had good rhythm.
The performance continued with the duo percussively slapping away at their guitars while the adoring crowd watched with gaping stares. Both Rodrigo and Gabriela have different styles of playing, but both are very fast and super-fun to watch. Each member had their own time to shine mid-way through the set, taking the stage for themselves and showing off their chops during their own solos.
Gabriela, who uses her guitar as more of a drum at times, matches perfectly with Rodrigo. who is a bit more technical when it comes to picking. They play off of each other so much, too -- I'm not sure if they're a couple or not (the Internet says different things), but they should be because of how well they mesh. You would think that strumming an acoustic guitar as fast as possible for an hour and a half would come with a mistake or two, but never did they falter or stray from one another. True professionalism and talent.
They played a mix from all their albums, with songs like "Hanuman," "Santo Domingo" and "Hora Zero" from 11:11 and a set-closing "Tamacun" from the self-titled album that lit up the entire room. They also threw a few covers in for good measure that seemed to go over pretty well.
They've been covering Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" for many years, even releasing a studio version, so when I heard those familiar opening chords I was pretty excited. They only played the opening chords, then immediately jumped into an unexpected but well-received cover of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," the best cover of that song I've heard to date.
The show was fantastic, even though the swelling Houston crowd that had filled up House of Blues from front to back got a little bored and talkative in the middle. It was such a treat to have the ability to be so close to them, as anywhere else you go in the world they'd be playing to at least double the people.
They have the ability to warm people's hearts with only a pair of acoustic guitars and the occasional heavily-accented Mexican/Irish banter. They're louder and more commanding of the stage than many a rock band that I've seen come through, which has to be a tough feat with an instrument that's supposed to be played around a campfire.
Personal Bias: I've loved them now for seven years, and haven't seen them live in five, so I was pretty excited walking into House of Blues.
The Crowd: Combination Pizza Hut (white people) and Taco Bell (Hispanic people).
Overheard In the Crowd: "Odeeeeeelllllllaaaaaaayyyyy!!!!!!!!"
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Random Notebook Dump: Houston, I know you might be bored with the show, or want to catch up with some friends, but take it outside or learn how to whisper. During Rodrigo's solo I felt so bad for him because he was up onstage giving it his all, which was downright amazing, but the crowd front to back was full of chatter. It was rather annoying. Shut up, Houston!