Review by Cain Suleyman with Photography by Bimal Tailor

The lights blackout in Camden’s Roundhouse as two figures enter the stage with only guitars in hand. Heavy music is playing over the sound system as it appears we’re preparing to witness an extreme metal gig. Actually. This occasion was quite the opposite. Strong beats that vibrate the chest from acoustic guitars. It’s an odd dynamic for the beginning of the gig but WOW! Just WOW!

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It’s an experience like no other as a wave of Mexican classical guitar fills the room to create a mass cheer from a pretty much sold out Roundhouse. The grooves coming from the immensely talented Rodrigo y Gabriela fill everyone with joy as every eye is fixed on them.

During the opening, we’re taken on a journey through the streets of Mexico City with Hanuman. The beats keeping the song peddling forward come from sharp thuds to Gabriela’s guitar with Rodrigo transfixed by his strings as he fiddles traditional flamenco solos at such a speed, it’s impossible to believe that one man is playing this. A perfectly composed song sees the South American duo show just how impressive and enjoyable these sounds are, no matter what kind of music you listen to.

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On the dawn of a new album release, Mettavolution, we’re treated to a preview of the material. This starts with Cumbé, a melodic masterpiece with electric guitar riffs laying on top of the flamenco sounds that we’re so familiar with when listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela. It’s extremely impressive to experience their musical dynamics in this setting. When listening to their albums, you can hear the mastered musicianship that the duo have, but seeing this live is something else. It plays with your emotions. It fills you with this indescribable ecstasy and just as you’re about to dance your shoes off, they sharply bring the tempo down in such a controlled way.

The way the music is handled is a true representation of their musical maturity and knowledge of the genre that they are so confidently sharing with the world. The specific style of South American classical guitar is one that requires an extremely high level of skill, as well and a deeper connection with the culture surrounding it. Most musicians playing this music have been brought up around this for it to be truly rooted in their hearts, allowing the best sounds to be released. Through all of tonight’s pair’s experiences, they have managed to show us a glimpse of just how much means to them.

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Witness Tree is another instalment of the show from their new album and it perfectly shows us all that you don’t need a drum to keep the song going. Gabriela whacks the guitar to create a driving pulse to the rest of the song that would put a certain popular musician who does the same thing to shame. The massive difference is that this example fits the song, rather than being a jazzy showpiece to try and impress. Gabriela actually channels thought and care when she does this in each track, especially this one.

The pair speak very little throughout the show. With English not being their first language, Rodrigo y Gabriela let the music speak for itself. The age old language of music is one containing much complexity but it’s arguably the easiest to translate. This is something that is highlighted during one of the rare moments of dialogue during the show. Rodrigo Sanchez exchanges the guitar for the microphone for a short period of time to have a verbal connection with spectators fixated to his figure. In quite a moving speech, he explains that he feels it’s his duty as a musician to share music that will connect with listeners. There is a great acknowledgment for those suffering with certain mental health issues as he offers a helping hand through the music written and performed tonight. This is an extremely moving moment towards the end of the gig to show how the musician has such a deep connection to both his music and those who enjoy it just as much as he enjoys performing.

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Setlist:
Intro
Krotona Days
Hanuman
Cumbé
11:11
Witness Tree
Old Intro
Soundmaker
Electric Soul
Tamacun
Echoes
Mettavolution
Mini Gab Solo
Fram
Medley (old stuff, Diablo)
Teerracentric

Footnote:

Rodrigo y Gabriella have announced a major UK tour this autumn culminating at London’s Eventim Apollo.

Sun 22nd Sep 2019 – Liverpool O2 Academy
Tue 24th Sep 2019 – Bath Forum
Wed 25th Sep 2019 – Gateshead Sage
Thu 26th Sep 2019 – Glasgow O2 Academy
Sat 28th Sep 2019 – Leeds O2 Academy
Sun 29th Sep 2019 – Manchester Albert Hall
Mon 30th Sep 2019 – Birmingham O2 Institute
Fri 4th Oct 2019 – London Eventim Apollo

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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