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Rodrigo y Gabriela Concert
17 October 2009
 
 
On Monday evening, 12 October 2009, Jeremy and I went to a Rodrigo y Gabriela concert at the historic Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland, Oregon. It was a fabulous performance, and definitely a night to remember!

A couple of months previously, the minute the tickets went on sale, I was online trying to see what kind of seats I could get. Compared to the size of the hall, I think I did pretty good! As you can see from the seating chart to the right (click to enlarge), we got seats in the 6th row, on the aisle to the left of the stage, right where I put the red dot. I was pretty thrilled!

Finally the big day arrived. Right after work, Jeremy and I headed up the I-5 to Portland. Of course, we can't visit Portland without stocking up at Trader Joe's, but once that bit of business was taken care of, we continued on to downtown, and found a big parking structure just around the corner from the concert hall.

Despite the 4 out of 5 star rating I read about on the Web, we didn't really have a very great dinner at SuperDog. If you're ever in downtown Portland, do yourself a favor and skip this one! If I had known what it was going to be like, I would have gladly gone next door to the Subway ... their Chicken & Bacon Ranch sandwich is pretty killer.

I also wish I had known I was going to make this Web page ... I would have taken some photos inside the Schnitzer Hall. Built in 1928, and seating nearly 2,800 people, it's a pretty impressive place. I looked around the Web and found the photo to the left, which will give you some idea of what the place is like. It definitely makes you feel like you should be wearing your dress clothes. On the night of our concert, I would say that it was just as packed as you see in the photos ... I'm sure it was pretty much a full house.

After wandering around for a while checking the place out, Jeremy and I found our seats on the sixth row, eager for the show to begin. The concert began at 8:00, but we had found out that Rodrigo y Gabriela didn't come on until 9:00. The opening act was to play from 8:00 to 8:30. I thought it was strange that the opening act would only play half an hour, with another half hour of "nothing" before the main event. But once we heard the opening act, Rocco DeLuca, we realized it was a real mercy that he didn't play the whole hour! Unless you're way out there in your musical tastes (and I'm pretty broadminded myself), do yourself a favor and DON'T go see him! From 8:30 until 9:00 a stage hand worked on getting everything ready to go for Rodrigo y Gabriela. Let the show begin!

As soon as they came on stage, Rodrigo y Gabriela jumped right in to their incredibly intense and energenic style of guitar playing. I don't know what they had done with the sound system, but Gabriela's first slap on her guitar near the bridge sounded like a bomb going off! If you were to close your eyes, you would swear you were listening to a kick bass drum from a drum kit. Every time she slapped the guitar, the force of the air from the sound system thudded against our chests and rippled our clothes! WOW! Every once in a while I would catch myself looking up to the ceiling to see if any 80-year-old plaster was starting to crack and fall down! I was sure that the original builders didn't have this kind of performance in mind!

You may be wondering exactly what kind of music Rodrigo y Gabriela play. It's a bit hard to nail down, but the closest I can come is that it's a fusion of flamenco style guitar and heavy metal style guitar, played on classical guitars. What a combination, huh? It's like nothing you have ever heard before. As one reviewer wrote, "It's hard to believe just two people playing guitars can make music this powerful and absorbing."

Really, words and pictures are TOTALLY inadequate ... you have to hear, and see, them for yourself. Click on the video below to see them play a song in concert from around 2005 or 2006.


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Of course, just one song can't give you the complete picture of what they can do, but it does give you a little taste, along with the excitement they create in the crowd. But being there in person is definitely a lot more awesome! It's hard to find the words that will adequately describe their playing: astonishing ... astounding ... mind-boggling ... jaw-dropping. You can find more samples on YouTube, including some more recent performances. Well, actually, I can't resist sticking in one more video, recorded at a rock festival in France on 5 July 2009.
A couple of years ago I picked up their first major recording, from 2006, simply called Rodrigo y Gabriela. Then at the beginning of September 2009 their second studio album came out, called 11:11. Both CDs came with a bonus DVD, with footage of them playing in concert, and in their home. But as I said before, seeing them live is a whole different experience than just watching them on a video. OK, now that you have a better idea of what we're dealing with here, let's get back to the concert I was at.
 
Having watched concert footage of Rodrigo y Gabriela on the bonus DVDs that came with their albums, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But I was very pleased to discover some aspects that I DIDN'T expect.

First of all, on their videos they were pretty much always both sitting down when they played. And they didn't seem to interact much between each other. But at this concert it seemed like they were sitting A LOT less, especially Rodrigo. In fact, it seemed like he was hardly ever in his chair. He was standing much of the time, but also squatting sometimes, or using his monitor speaker as a kind of stool, as you can see in the photo to the right. Seems like Gabriela was standing about half the time, and seated the other half, except for occasionally when she leaned against a monitor speaker too.

I was also delighted to see how much they interacted with each other during the concert, and how much fun they seemed to be having playing together. Sometimes they were very close to each other, like the photo to the left, and the first photo of them on this page. At other times they were on opposite ends of the stage. I think their moving around quite a bit on the stage rather than just sitting on their chairs for the whole concert really added a lot to their performance.

It was also really cool to see Rodrigo and Gabriela each have a bit of solo time. Of course, with Rodrigo generally playing "lead guitar", you would expect him to have some solo time to show off his abilities. But what was a very pleasant surprise was Gabriela's solo time (see photos to the right and left). Even though she is often considered the "rhythm guitarist", after hearing her play solo, I had a new admiration for her guitar-playing abilities (which were already held in high regard). I think she can definitely hold her own with Rodrigo, and I think they are definitely equals on the guitar. I would not consider her second fiddle at all!

Another great aspect of the concert was the many cameras around the stage and the two projectors that put the varied images up on a big screen, in black and white. They really applied some interesting creativity here. As a serious amateur videographer myself, I was definitely paying attention! Gabriela had three small lipstick cameras, sitting on top of mic stands, ranged around her chair. In the photo to the left I have circled two of them. It seemed like there were some other cameras shooting from the balcony.

But the coolest lipstick camera of all was the wireless one clipped to the headstock of Rodrigo's guitar. I have circled it in the photo to the left. When they projected that camera onto the screen, you were treated to an awesome shot down the fretboard of Rodrigo's guitar, so you could see a close up of what his fingers were playing. Very nicely done!

Through song after song, Rodrigo and Gabriela's blistering finger-work inthralled the audience. At times I found myself just shaking my head in amazement ... watching them make these incredible sounds together.

Another highlight of the evening was when Rodrigo played a bit of slide guitar. On bonus DVD from their latest CD, 11:11, on the title track, Rodrigo plays slide guitar during part of the song with a small drinking glass (I've included a video clip below so you can see for yourself.)

At the concert, Rodrigo had been sipping on a beer throughout the evening. Then, when it came time to play 11:11, he took the beer bottle to use as a slide. This harkens back to the early 1900's, when the most common slide was the neck of a glass bottle, hence the other name for slide guitar: bottleneck guitar. Can't say that I've ever heard slide guitar on a classical guitar before! To the left is a photo of Rodrigo using the bottle at the concert. In this photo you can also clearly see the lipstick camera clamped to the top of his guitar headstock.

Maybe because the concert was being held at such a high-class, fancy-schmancy venue, with proper seating, the audience seemed somewhat too subdued for Rodrigo ... he even made a few comments along that line. Throughout the evening he was encouraging everyone to engage a bit more by clapping different rhythms to the music, and to stand.

But people seemed inclined to sit, or else they were trying to be courteous to those behind them, whose view they were blocking. But by the end of the evening, I eventually had to stand too, if I wanted to see anything. I was sitting there, looking at the backs of those in front of me, thinking "This is ridiculous! I paid all this money and came all this way, and now I can't even see them. I might as well stand too, so I can enjoy watching them play. As for those behind me who might not be able to see ... oh well!"

 

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After about an hour and twenty-five minutes, Rodrigo y Gabriela finished their set and walked off the stage. But the clamoring crowd brought them back for two more songs. What an electrifying evening! And amazingly enough, all the plaster seemed to stay on the ceiling and walls!

Then it was time for Jeremy and I to find our way out of downtown Portland and head back to Albany. We made it home right at midnight. But with Rodrigo y Gabriela's music pounding in my head, it was another hour before I was finally able to fall asleep ... only to dream of the concert all night long!

In closing, let me direct you to a recent interview of, and article about, Rodrigo y Gabriela.

The second link is an interview with Rodrigo y Gabriela on National Public Radio's All Thing Considered program. Be sure to click on the "Listen Now" link right under the title. And last but not least, don't miss Rodrigo y Gabriela's own Web site: If you ever get a chance to see them in concert, JUST DO IT! Check their Web site for their tour dates. Some of the concerts they will be playing later this year in Europe are already sold out!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my Rodrigo y Gabriela concert page. All of the concert photos on this page were taken by myself, and, in case you haven't figured it out already, you can click on all of them to see a larger version. Until next time....

15 July 2010 Update:
Rodrigo y Gabriela will be giving two concerts in Oregon next month. They also recently released a new music video of one of the songs from their latest album. This is a very cool video! Be sure to watch it in full-screen HD if you have a large wide-screen monitor.
For reviews of other concerts I have had the privilege of attending while living in Oregon, be sure to check out:
This article is 1st a series of articles on this Web site related to Literature, Music and Photography
1.
Rodrigo y Gabriela Concert
17  Oct  2009
2.
24  Oct  2009
3.
12  Dec  2009
4.
2  Jan  2010
5.
9  Oct  2010
6.
10  Jan  2011
7.
1  Sep  2011
8.
13  Mar  2012
9.
28  Mar  2013
10.
29  Jul  2013
11.
22  Sep  2013
12.
26  Oct  2013
13.
2  Aug  2014
14.
12  Aug  2014
15.
14  Aug  2014
16.
12  Sep  2014
17.
19  Sep  2014
18.
12  Apr  2015
19.
21  Dec  2016
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Reader Comments
On September 9, 2017, Charled wrote:
Thanks for the great review. I was seemingly snakebit every time they played Colorado. I've wanted to see them years and finally got my chance this past August, when they played at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater in Vail, Colorado. It was as magnificent as I expected. Their interaction together was great, and I loved the way they used the cameras on their guitars. The crowd was not as boisterous as at some of their shows, but everyone had a good time. I look forward to the next time they visit Colorado.
 
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