Rodrigo y Gabriela – review

Ritz, Manchester

A pair of Mexico City heavy metal kids turned buskers in Dublin turned instrumental acoustic flamenco rock phenomenon, Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero haven't taken the most obvious route to success. However, with their genre-busting sound chiming neatly with the boom in British interest in salsa dancing and Latin/South American nightlife, Rodrigo y Gabriela have become so popular they can pack a venue such as the old Ritz ballroom. Lately, they've expanded their sound as well as their audience, collaborating with a 13-piece Cuban orchestra to continue their unlikely musical globalisation.

"They're so good they could play the gig without us," quips Sanchez of the band, C.U.B.A., which may well be true. But for all the band's percussive workouts and big brass stabs, the heartbeat of the music is still the core duo's duelling acoustic guitars, which are fed through complex effects pedals and played so fast its a wonder the duo haven't been hospitalised with RSI.

With, and sometimes without, the full orchestra here, tracks from the pair's 1.2m-selling back catalogue (which have been reinvented for the new Area 52 album) are rifled through, as the musical adventure visits everything from jazz fusion to Hendrix-esque rock. The sublime, newly expanded 11.11 glistens with Sánchez's scintillating guitar lines, and there's even a homage to Stevie Wonder's Superstition. It's not all great, though. In the slower romantic pieces you fear a visit from a man selling roses from a bucket, and the endless, cheered feats of dizzying musicianship feel a bit Rock School goes to Havana. However, the audience are whooping, sweat drips from the ceiling, and by the end Quintero's joke about rainy February Manchester feeling "tropical" doesn't feel so unlikely after all.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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