“Buenas noches!” Gabriela Quintero (of Rodrigo y Gabriela) greeted the crowd at Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre Sunday night. “Buenas noches!” the crowd called back, and to her next question, “Cómo estás?” the audience chorused in return, “Bien!” Prior to the ritual call-and-response, the pair of guitarists had walked out on stage and, without preamble, launched into their first song: “Satori,” a rousing, dynamic number—alternatingly rhythmic and melodic—from their 2006 self-titled album. That’s certainly one way to get the blood pumping.
It’s a song that normally comes toward the end of one of their live performances, explained Gabriela, but, “The theme of this tour is ‘by request.’” Their management team reached out to loyal fans and helped select the set list based off of requests from fans (hence, opening with “Satori”).
From there, the duo picked back up with another fan-favorite song. In 2011, they collaborated with legendary cinematic composer Hans Zimmer on the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides soundtrack. “We learned a lot of things from that experience,” said Quintero. “That music is important but not as important as the picture.” The song, “The Pirate That Should Not Be” is another heart-stopping track that incorporates recognizable motifs and melodies of the Pirates of the Caribbean, evoking seafaring and adventure. No matter how tired you think you might be of the Pirates theme (the film franchise is almost 20 years old), Rodrigo y Gabriela breathe new life into the familiar tune.
Another hit from their self-titled album, “Tamacún,” fills up your entire body with sound and would inspire just about anyone to movement. It had people on their feet, kicking off shoes, dancing barefoot in the grass and doing their level best to keep up with the beat. Songs like “Tamacún” and “Diablo Rojo” not only drive people to dance but exquisitely showcase Rodrigo y Gabriela’s sharp technical proficiency, enduring even under the most punishing of tempos.
Their set dressing is simple, pared down to allow the music to speak for itself. The two sit side-by-side on black boxes while a live close-up of the performers is projected onto a black curtain behind them. The projection and the lighting only serves to enhance the music. While they’re a flawless team, each guitarist can hold the stage on their own as well. Both Rodrigo Sánchez and Quintero performed solos back-to-back, no doubt giving the other a chance to rest. Quintero’s solo was frenetic and entrancing, as the wind whipped her hair around and her white tennis shoes stomped to the beat. Sánchez’s solo was more romantic and contained musically as well as visually, occasionally teetering into hints of sex or heartbreak.
The duo’s vast range and mastery of multiple genres were also on full display, from classical guitar to inspiration taken from flamenco, jazz and heavy metal. The duo even contributed to the cover album celebrating a milestone of one of their biggest influences, Metallica. They recorded a cover of “The Struggle Within” for The Metallica Blacklist, which marks the 30th anniversary of Metallica’s Black Album. With more than 50 covers on the album, Metallica also enlisted musical performers like St. Vincent (performing at the Twilight concert series at the Gallivan Center on Sept. 18), Kamasi Washington (who was originally slated for the now-postponed 2021 Park City Song Summit), Weezer and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, who also performed at Red Butte Garden this summer.
Rodrigo y Gabriela’s album Mettavolution (2019) won a Grammy Award for the “Best Contemporary Instrumental Album” at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. As the night came to a close, they performed a track from the album, “Witness Tree,” telling the audience that the evening was dedicated to “whoever you think needs good energy. We send it to them with all of our hearts.”
Tickets are on sale to other Red Butte Concerts at the Outdoor Concert Series website. See the full Red Butte summer lineup (be aware, there have been some COVID-related cancelations) and Salt Lake’s guide on how to Red Butte.