tue 23/07/2024

Rodrigo Y Gabriela, O2 Academy Brixton | reviews, news & interviews

Rodrigo Y Gabriela, O2 Academy Brixton

Rodrigo Y Gabriela, O2 Academy Brixton

Mexican buskers almost perfect the art of showing-off

Rod y Gab: the taste of Bacardi and smell of Miami nights

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s flamenco gymnastics have gained such a reputation over the past couple of years, it’s been suggested that watching them is like being at a circus. Ever since these two Mexican buskers came over to Europe and started dazzling with their near impossible heavy-metal-on-nylon-strings routine, audiences have been left drop-jawed at their speed and exuberance. But, unless Rod and Gab want to end up as a novelty, they know their current routine can only take them so far.

Their solution? A slight change of direction and a bunch of musicians called C.U.B.A.

Area 52, released last month, takes nine songs from the back catalogue and, with the help of the new band, gives them a kind of turbo-salsa make-over. Sometimes it sounds a bit like Santana, elsewhere like Buena Vista on steroids. Unfortunately though, on the actual record at least, often it just seems there’s just too much going on. On record, however, has never been how El Rod y La Gab have proved themselves. And, band or no band, showing up to a lager-and-sweat venue like Brixton, armed with a couple of classical guitars, takes big cojones.

The crowd went nuts for Rodrigo’s lightning picking but Gab’s hummingbird rhythms got even more applauseAs it turned out the pair had sufficient sound to fill a hall twice the size of the Academy, and enough music to comfortably fit into two evenings. But, aside from going on too long, it was an evening of Latin spirit, spectacle and frequently both combined. Subtle and aesthetically sophisticated it wasn’t. It was music for people who’d happily buy a pack of musician top trumps. And why not?

The musical special skills on offer were Havana party music, Rodrigo and Gabriela solos, and general jazzing out. They came in three big slabs. “Santo Domingo” and “Hanuman” which opened the night, tasted of Bacardi and smelt of Miami nights. Rodrigo’s electric guitar came out for the latter and it sounded just like Carlos playing his hit, “Smooth”. Suddenly it felt like summer had arrived and we were on holiday. But then the come down: 20 minutes or so of muso noodling, during which it wasn’t certain quite what you were here to see. Certainly not Gabriela who was entirely drowned out. Drinks were bought, and Facebook statuses were updated.

Then, the moment we had all been waiting for: the Rodrigo y Gabriela acoustic solo spot. There were individual extended solos: the crowd went nuts for Rodrigo’s lightning picking but Gab’s hummingbird rhythms got even more applause. The pieces “Savitiri”, “Hora Zero”, and “Buster Voodoo” were played as duets. During Rodrigo’s personal braggadocio spot, he treated us to a masterclass in Andalucían fret-busting.

Yet it was always going to be their unique rock-fusion sound, all classical shredding and Spanish wah-wah, that the audience was going to go really hog-wild for. Especially as everyone could see it all, close-up and beautifully rendered on a giant black and white, high-contrast projection behind them.  

When the band came back, the bars filled again, and Twitter, no doubt, experienced a spike. As amazing as Alex Wilson’s band were, the truth was the audience had come essentially to marvel at the pyrotechnics of El Rod y La Gab. The Havana hoedown that had started the evening had been a bonus. But the jazz solos and freeform excursions now seemed a bit too much like grade B+ showing off. After all that pure grade A showing off, we’d had, it didn’t quite seem good enough. Or maybe it was just that it was now getting late. After “Tamacun”, many were already leaving. The guys had already played for an hour and three quarters. By the end of the encore, “Diablo Rojo”, it was close to two hours.

Of course Rodrigo y Gabriela’s raison d'être is musical excess. But even showboating needs to know its limits. If they’d trimmed the fat, last night’s performance would have been a four-star show, as but, as it was, it was about half an hour too much. Or maybe they need to find somewhere that can cope with that much extravaganza. Next stop Vegas?

Watch Rodrigo y Gabriela play Later with Jools Holland


I was at the gig last night and agree with the majority of this review. We paid good money to see arguablly the two best guitar players in the world. No question the band were extreamlly talented but what the fudge! At sevral points R & G simply wern't playing so the band could play......fail. BEER TIME! If I wanted to see a good "band" I would book tickets for a good band. The fact is I don't and many other fans don't consider R&G a "band" as such more of an exibiton of awesomness. So it's a little dissopointing to see a band take center stage at a R&G, that being said the dude on piano was tremendous! He's welcome on stage with R&G everyone else.......... The only thing I disagree with in this review is the point made on "Length" 2 hours seems right the band has 3 albums and a lot matieral to cover 2hours is the right amount for a live show. Taking the reviews suggestion of shaving of 30mins would be a mistake. The sad fact is this gig would have been 5* if it was simply the two ledgends with there guitars. With a band is not the same. Oh and support act wallys bird is awesome!

Agree with James. Rodrigo y Gariela we're great and the band didn't, couldn't, add a lot of value. The keyboard player performed a great solo but overall a good band detracted from a brilliant duo.

I was there as well. The crowd was kinda subdued I must say. Even when R&G played Tamacun, arguably the most popular song of R&G's, the crowd were a bit quiet. I like this duo so much, but yeah, I hope there would just be two of them playing guitars on stage (I know this gig is part of their new album tour, but in fact they performed a few of their old songs which were not included in the album). At the end of the day I had such a good time - even though I went to the gig alone, I was jumping and clapping crazily for almost 2 hours. I just wish the crowd could be more involved.

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