Going into the Rodrigo y Gabriela show Friday night, I knew virtually nothing about the duo other than what I'd read--two Mexican guitar players, one man and one woman, and they broke into the public consciousness via the unlikely move of transplanting from Mexico City to Dublin.
Having now seen Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero do their thing live, it's obvious why their music allowed them to not only break out in Europe, but go on to find an audience around the world. That audience clearly extends to Utah, even though Friday's show at Red Butte Garden was their first appearance in Salt Lake City. A large segment was on their feet from the opening notes, ready to dance and rock out, and in my immediate vicinity, I spied barefoot hippies, mohawked punks and middle-aged beer-bellied yuppies equally enthralled by the musicians on stage.
Rodrigo y Gabriela proved that instrumental, acoustic music could genuinely rock; their love of thrash metal like old Metallica and Slayer came through in some of their furious riffing. Even before they started, the pre-show music selections indicated this would be anything by a mellow night of classical or jazz guitar, even though both genres regularly make their way into the duo's music. Safe to say, the pre-show playlist was likely the first time Accept's "Balls to the Wall" or Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name of" rang through the beautiful confines of the Red Butte Garden amphitheater.
The energy of those old guitar-heavy classics carried over to when Rodrigo y Gabriela took the stage and tore into selections from their self-titled debut album and 2009's breakthrough, 11: 11. They played plenty of new songs, too, as both performers were sure to mention. And Gabriela was reassuring in introducing some new songs, asking the audience to put up with the unfamiliar.
"It's good to keep your mind open," Gabriela announced, "from a more universal perspective."
Aided by a worthy light show and cameras that projected their fleet fingerwork to a screen behind the stage, Rodrigo y Gabriela put on an endlessly entertaining show. It was all the more exciting having gone in cold, with little experience of their music. That definitely won't be the case next time they come around, and I'll be there for sure--Rodrigo y Gabriela is not the kind of show you want to miss.