Concert Hall, April 9
When Rodrigo and Gabriela first played in Sydney some eight years ago it was at the now defunct @Newtown, and the audience consisted of Triple J listeners. The intriguing aspect of the Mexicans’ success is that as their popularity has grown (to fill the Enmore Theatre and now twice the Concert Hall), the breadth of their audience has also radically expanded. The rusted-on 20-somethings were still there, but so were teens, parents and grandparents in what, heart-warmingly, was the most diverse audience I have seen – its own little fillip for social cohesion.
And all this is for an act that many a music biz executive would have laughed at. “You do what?” they’d have said. “You try to generate arena-rock energy with two nylon-string guitars, no drums and no singing? Get outa here!”
Although the riffs and rhythms may come straight from the hard-rock handbook, they are rabidly infectious and executed with exemplary precision. Rodrigo Sanchez, meanwhile, is evolving into a much more distinctive improviser of melodic lines, and Gabriela Quintero’s unique strumming patterns increase in sophistication. His playing is now more percussive, and hers intertwines a greater intricacy into the hurtling momentum. If an occasional use of effects pedals offered alternative textures it was done so sparingly as to retain the essential acoustic ethos.
After two songs Rodrigo invited people on stage, perhaps to enliven the security guys’ night. He suggested there may be some young musicians who wanted to learn what it was like to be up there. In fact many of those who rushed to do so were old enough to be their parents, and thereafter batches of 50 jiving, camera-obsessed fans were rotated.
By far the night’s biggest surprise, however, was that Rodrigo sang. Yes, perhaps the most popular instrumental act in contemporary rock just sprouted vocals. Performing solo, he delivered two songs, including an especially convincing rendition of Radiohead’s Creep. Now there’s a development. Where to from here?