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Rodrigo y Gabriela at Hollywood Bowl 8/14/16. Photo by Derrick K. Lee, Esq. (@Methodman13) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Having spent months on the road, performing in 22 countries, the globally acclaimed Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela (Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero) concluded their tour itinerary with a stop at the esteemed Hollywood Bowl on August 14, 2016.  This performance would be the fourth time I would see “Rodgab” in concert, and my third time seeing them perform at “The Bowl”, and for the fourth time in my life, Rodgab blew my freaking mind. Gabriela’s uniquely kinetic rhythmic technique and Rodrigo’s pristine melodic playing makes your mind whirl in a dizzying cycle of awe, and I was lucky enough to once again become awestruck.

Now, I’m not a selfish fella. I like to share my experiences when I can, and if I can open someone’s eyes and ears to the musical genius that Rodrigo y Gabriela possess, I’ll know that I have made that someone’s life infinitely better by virtue of doing so. On this occasion, I invited a friend who’s musical leanings tended towards popular music genres. By the end of the evening, my friend’s newly acquired appreciation of heavy metal proved that I done my job.

The opening act for the evening was an orchestral set by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Conducted by Thomas Wilkins, the orchestra explored musical themes influenced by Latin culture. In between compositions, Wilkins pondered the inspiration and “roots” of Latin music, concluding that in his perspective the cultural themes “come from the soil”, and his interpretations of Soro’s “Danza Fantastica”, Lecouna’s “Andalucia” and Jobim’s” A Chegada dos Chandangos” all possessed a warm, earthly sensuality.

Perhaps the highlight of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra’s set was the performance of the “Love Theme” from El Cide by Miklós Rózsa.  The passion of that performance was palpable, with the violins singing with desire, swelling and climbing the scales higher and higher, making each concert-goer, in that moment, live the essence of that passion.

Prior to concluding their opening set with selections from Falla’s La Vida Breve”, Wilkins took a moment to joke with an audience member sitting in the Bowl’s pool seats. “I taught her everything she know,” he smiled, “Cuchi Cuchi. That’s all I’m going to say.” Spanish-American actress, comedian and flamenco guitarist Charo was in attendance.

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After a short intermission, Rodrigo y Gabriela joined the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra to perform a handful of specially arranged sections for the concert event. In his introduction, Rodrigo joked that the acoustic duo, because of their Mexican heritage (alluding to the negative political discourse of the times) which elicited liberal laughter from the crowd.

The Hollywood Bowl’s accompaniment of Rodgab added a fullness to the duo’s music that was exhilarating to behold. The orchestra never overpowered Rodgab, only accentuating the duo’s performance by filling out the sounds that that were already there. “Hora Zero” was particularly explosive, and the focus on Rodrigo’s fingers as they danced on the fret of his guitar was unbeleivable to watch. Rodrigo then surprised me again when he sang a new song titled “Waiting to be Free”. I may be wrong, but this is the first time I have ever heard a Rodgab song that featured vocals by either of the two players.

Rodrigo y Gabriela at Hollywood Bowl 8/14/16. Setlist.The first big “surprise” of the concert (and I put the surprise in quotes because Rodgab had hinted to the evening’s special guests in social media posts earlier in the week), was when Gabriela introduced one of their guitar heroes, who had traveled from Japan to be there on this special night, to the stage: Megadeth’s Marty Friedman.

Armed with an electric guitar, Marty and Rodgab, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, performed a fantastic interpretation of Astor Piazolla’s “Oblivion”. When Marty and Rodrigo played the melody line in unison, I was spellbound by how sonically the electric and acoustic guitar sang together in one voice. It was as if the two disparate instruments were dancing their own Tango, demonstrating that the two instruments were meant to naturally coexist. It was truly a breathtaking moment for me personally.

Following the “Oblivion” performance, Marty and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra left the stage to have Rodgab perform as the amazing duo they are. Even without the Orchestra, Rodgab’s sound was as large and pristine as it could be. The intensity of their performance climaxed during the performance of “Hanuman” when the audience finally let loose its inhibitions and started to wildly clap to the song’s beat, reaching another climax during the performance of “Diablo Rojo”.

After “Diablo Rojo” Gabriela addressed the audience:

“[Our music is] eclectic music played acoustically. It’s a big mix of things we listen to and love […] It filters through our system … jazz, classical … and a lot of metal. [With an] Acoustic instrument, you can play anything. It’s an instrument that’s so universal.”

Following that statement, the second “surprise” guest and the “bassist’s bassist”, Robert Trujillo (formerly of Suicdal Tendencies and currently Metallica) walked on stage. Before Trujillo joined Rodgab to play, he playfully challenged the duo to prove their “metal” mettle and jam something out. After a comedic “false start” of the opening chords to Extreme’s “More Than Words”, Rodgab jumped into cover of Megadeth’s “Holy Wars”. If my memory, and ears, serve me right, the two snuck in a refrain of the Beatle’s “My Guitar Gently Weeps” during its performance.

Trujillo, apparently satisfied with what he has heard, then joined Rodgab for an absolutely sick medley of Metallica covers. THIS was definitely a highlight for me. “Orion”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Battery” were all given the acoustic treatment, and as I looked to my friend … my friend who had no prior appreciation for, or even concept of, heavy metal … shifted wide-eyed focused glances from the stage to the huge LED monitors to watch the magic that was happening on stage.

Following the acoustically rendered Metallica jams, Rodgab performed a new song dedicated to kidnapping and disappearance last year of of 43 students in the Mexican state of Guerrero with Gabriela emphasizing the need to put some “good vibes into the world”.

For their encore, they performed the song that broke them in the U.S.: “Tacumen”. At this point, the crowd was all up out of their seats, dancing and clapping to the Rodgab’s performance. My friend was up and dancing as well.

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