Last night I headed out into Leeds to the O2 Academy with two friends to watch the incredibly impressive Rodrigo and Gabriela. Despite having lived in Leeds for quite a while now, it was actually my first time at the Academy. I wasn’t expecting such a sparse interior (or the two suspended disco balls) but as it filled up with people, an atmosphere began to build.
Despite his nerves (” we have this expression in Norway that goes something like ‘it’s fucking terrifying playing an acoustic set’ “), he quickly charmed the crowd (“hello Yorkshire. I love you. And I hate lancashi…something. My mate told me to say that”).
He and his fellow guitarist (Petter? I could be making that up) were great and got a good vibe going. While I didn’t catch the names of every song he played in his half hour set, I did particularly enjoy Wild Bird and A Thousand Times Over.
The Main Event
Rodrigo y Gabriela stepped onto the stage shortly afterwards and – without saying a word – began playing The Soundmaker (the first track from their recent release 9 Dead Alive). Without pause, they then played Torito – the second track – and I had this momentary worry that they weren’t going to speak at all!
Naturally, it was following this that Rodrigo picked up the mic and explained that the pair were experimenting with a new concert style. Rather than follow a strict and pre-arranged set list; they wrote down a selection of their songs and would perform them in any order that seemed right! He then invited shout out suggestions from the audience. We were not a shy bunch!
Nothing was out of bounds and there were several tracks from each of their albums – including a brilliantly wild heavy metal medley – built around their ever wonderful version of Orion.
(This is not the medley you are looking for…but still, pretty awesome right?)
Gabriela then asked for more suggestions. She was particularly warm and funny as she shared some memories of touring across the UK and Ireland in the past (loves the tropical weather in England this time of the year apparently!).
The pair then invited Øystein back on stage to perform the track Nature’s Way. A candle was lit for the 43 Mexican students who have been missing since September. Though not a political group, Rodrigo y Gabriela encouraged all present to take pictures and video of the song to share online to make the world – and particularly the Mexican political class – aware that these students have not been forgotten. It was a beautiful idea.
Each also had a solo session on stage, which was wildly different from the tracks they work together on. For the entire set, they kept the energy high. Their command of the stage is so impressive and I’ve never seen a group that communicate so well with one another during each song and performance. You could see them actively listening to and enjoying one anothers playing. It was INCREDIBLE!
An extra feature that I found fascinating were the cameras placed on the head of their guitars, providing a view of their flying fingers and hands. I’ve never seen anything like it!!
After the official set was concluded, the two returned for an encore and delighted us all with a few of their signature tunes and then a version of Creep by Radiohead. This was a particular treat as my friend and I had been discussing the bands reluctance to play that track live – despite it being one of the songs that had cemented their popularity. Finally, we had a chance to see it live! 😉
It was a fantastic night and if you’re in two minds about seeing the pair on their 7 day tour of the UK – don’t hesitate – book now – you won’t regret it!
I didn’t even mind that I was standing behind a giant…though my mate did come perilously close to decking a fedora wearing rhythmically challenged superfan close to her. By rhythmically challenged I mean this fellow couldn’t clap in time with a song (or the rest of the audience) to save his life. By superfan I mean he was as drunk as a skunk and/or high as a kite and maintained a fixed daft grin and kept shouting out and whistling while waving his arms about like an inebriated octopus at the oddest times.
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