Barry Egan reviews 'intoxicating' Rodrigo y Gabriela set at the National Concert Hall
Rick Rubin (the Biblically-bearded producer of everything from Kanye West’s Yeezus to Johnny Cash’s American Recordings to Danzig’s How the Gods Kill) was recently asked to name his favourite Led Zeppelin song. Citing Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, he said the track has “got very mellow parts and explosive parts back-to-back; the guitar playing has a Spanish, almost classical influence”.
Mr Rubin could almost have been talking about the organic if magical music of Gabriela Quintero and Rodrigo Sánchez - better known as the guitar gods from Mexico, Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Last night at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the six-string sorcerers played a two hour set that was a beautiful, often surprising, exercise in eardrum-denting heavy metal power and classical virtuosity. And it was all done on nothing but two acoustic guitars.
As Bono might say, two guitars and the truth.
Intricate melodies became, suddenly, hard-edged blues jams straight out of the soundbook of Jimmy Page or Danzig, or indeed Bono's old mucker in U2, The Edge.
Ms Quintero and Mr Sánchez were indefatigably inventive from the moment they started the show with the blitzkrieg of Soundmaker at 8.10pm to when they walked off at 10.20pm to the haunting menace of Somnium.
Hora Zero, Diablo Rojo and Misty Moses were possibly some of the furthest -out music ever performed in the National Concert Hall, unless My Bloody Valentine decide to pay the venue a visit sometime soon.
Doubtless Rodrigo y Gabriela's version of Metallica's Orion had the fillings in the audience’s teeth rattling with enjoyment. Sunday Neurosis was emotive and powerful, not least because the song (from their new album 9 Dead Alive, their first studio long-player since 2012's Area 52) is dedicated to Viktor Frankl, who survived the Dachau concentration camp during World War II and went on to write in 1959, 'From Death-Camp To Existentialism'.
They also did The Russian Messenger (inspired by 19th century Russian wordsmith cum gloom-guru, Fyodor Dostoyevsky) from 9 Dead Alive.
Rod did a remarkable vocal version of Radiohead’s Creep – with Gab playing along and the crowd singing along. In truth, Rodrigo y Gabriela don’t need vocals. Their fusion-orientated melodies are the words in exactly the same way that the timeless melodies of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and even Mozart were the words.
Tumultuous cheers from the sold-out crowd greeted their every sonic utterance. It was made all the more intoxicating because Rodrigo and Gabriela honed their hot Mexican acoustic hard-rock amalgam busking on the cold streets of Dublin over a decade ago.
Gabriela referred to this in a series of off-the-cuff and hilarious recollections of their formative years in Dublin. "The plan was to stay for eleven weeks and then move to England. We stayed for a years,” she laughed adding that they lived around the corner from the National Concert Hall. “I can’t remember the street. I’m jet-lagged! “
Gobby Gabs continued that when they started playing in Dublin, “people thought we were Brazilians because our English was so bad. “
They would play First Communion parties. They always had fun and they always had “many pints.” There was plenty of both last night.
There was very little in the way of flash stage production. It was all about the music, and the crowd loved them more for it, for their integrity. As Rod told the Evening Standard last week: “We’re not a radio band, but we have played a lot. We develop fan-bases just by playing and playing.” Their loyal Irish fanbase clearly concurred last night.
Tomorrow, Rodrigo y Gabriela are off to play Glastonbury. But before Glasto, however, the world famous Mex guitar deities are playing the hugely exciting Windmill Lane Sessions exclusively on Independent.ie.
Stay tuned. You can watch the results next month only on our website. Expect some surprises, some great bands, and some great, great, great performances.