Is the whole idea of Rodrigo y Gabriela to re-engage listeners with heavy metal through skill, charm and the camouflage of acoustic guitars?
The P.A. at The Egg’s jammed Hart Theatre boomed blasts of Metallica, Megadeth, Testament and other loud rockers before the Mexican-born acoustic-guitar wielding duo took over the light-and-fog-drenched stage to fire up “The Soundmaker.” Nominally a tribute to the inventor of the acoustic guitar, this fleet opener showed how successfully they’ve blended metal physicality with flamenco velocity.
A rainbow in age and ethnicities, the audience enthusiastically ate it up, applauding in recognition of even new songs from “9 Dead Alive,” released today.
Rodrigo (Sanchez) usually etched the melodies with a flat-pick, exploding at times into hyper-flamenco zip, while Gabriela (Quintero), the more powerful of the two, flailed the strings and tapped on her guitar in percussive, propulsive beats. Her palm and fingers must be made of steel: She and Rodrigo both play nylon-string Yamahas, but she is the duo’s high-pressure rhythm section all by herself. Early on, her solo bits were rapid strums, though when she soloed later in “Somnium,” she finger-picked its melody with graceful delicacy before revving into palm-bashing the strings again.
Just two shows into their first tour in a year, they plowed through early road-rust in “Torito” and “Hora Zero,” though the crowd clapped hard on the beat anyway. Rodrigo used wah-wah pedal and a bottle employed as a slide to vary his sound at times, but he generally honed melodies with crisp precision while Gabriela, often jumping up and down, powered them rhythmically. Projected images also underlined the songs meaning at first, differentiating tunes that might otherwise have seemed too much the same. “Misty Moses,” a tribute to Harriet Tubman, for example, brought the crowd face to face with this anti-slavery hero.
Increasingly, however, the images were from cameras on the heads of their guitars and aimed down the necks at their hands. At times, images were superimposed so in one shot fans could see Rodrigo’s picking and Gabriela’s beats.
Everyone loved it, but not everything worked: At encore time, they playfully launched into Beatles’ songs, urging sing-alongs; but they aborted both “Something” and “Blackbird” when fans lost the beat. Onstage, though, Rodrigo y Gabriela never lost the beat, the melody or the forceful originality of their surprising hybrid music.
Young British troubadour Bobby Long wielded his acoustic guitar in a much more conventional fashion: strumming and picking, folk-rock/pop-wise, serving well-made songs sung in a thunderous voice. Popular from airplay and prior area shows, at The Linda most recently, he knew the crowd was with him from the first notes of “Help You Mend.” Confident, friendly, he connected with both loud intensity when he sang and quieter, witty charm when he spoke.