The Tivoli is a beautiful venue. Its wrought iron balustraded balcony and artistic interior adds an element of maturity to an event, making a concert hall out of an otherwise functional room full of standing patrons. The sense of place was perfect for enjoying the instrumental prowess of Mexican powerhouses of guitar Rodrigo y Gabriela and their support, emerging percussive blues/folk talent Daniel Champagne.
Champagne’s set established an appropriate tone for the evening’s patrons. Playing only a few extended tracks from his previous albums, showcasing his incredible percussive talent, the 600 or so strong crowd almost seem surprised and applauded heartily as the young guitarist played those few originals and finished with popular cover ‘Spoonful’, bashing his guitar with rhythmic abandon. Champagne revealed later what a pleasure it was to play with the hardworking Mexican duo, both as a fan but also as he observed their practised discipline, rehearsing for several hours before each show, despite their obvious talent meaning “they probably didn’t need to”, and remaining so polite and friendly with their team and the support crew throughout the tour.
Rodrigo y Gabriela attract a diverse crowd. Both in age and interest, it seemed just as likely to bump into a smartly dressed older couple as a group of enthusiastic young men passionate about their air guitar solos. The ninety minute set spanned musical genres, between flamenco tracks the crowd were familiar with and a few new pieces expected to form part of a forthcoming album, and the odd flirt with covers like Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ and Dave Brubeck Quartet’s jazzy ‘Take Five’. At one point in the set, the styles shifted from a lilting waltz, to a metal riff, to a ska-themed bridge of sorts, before a lick reminiscent of the AC/DC classic ‘Thunderstruck’. Amazing.
Gabriela was picture of focus on stage, hands and fingers flicking strings and tapping wood at an inhuman rate, whilst often standing calm, head slightly raised and eyes closed in an almost sleeping trance. Then, she’d open her eyes, show off a smile and jump in time, encouraging the crowd to clap or jump as the tempo of the performance increased. Rodrigo’s engaging smile would emerge occasionally, in between strained concentration as his lead licks played melodies over his stage partner’s rhythms and percussion. It took me some time to realise the sepia-toned multimedia projected on the stage back were actually live camera feeds from capo-like contraptions connected to the head of each guitar. These became almost hypnotic in itself as both virtuosos moved hands and fingers differently but with comparable and incredible proficiency.
Both rarely spoke but on three or four occasions humble and funny commentary was delivered; about Spanish profanity; “there’ll be no spanish lesson today… the dictionary of bad words from Mexico is endless. The show would never end”; or being unsatisfied with tour preparation due to studio work; “we played some new songs just before. We stuffed them up but they’re new so you didn’t notice”; or “we haven’t prepared a proper set… we will play what we can.” Any apparent lack of preparation was not at all evident.
Consummate professionals who so obviously love their craft, Rodrigo y Gabriela thrilled the Brisbane crowd with genre breaking, instrumental guitar masterclass, and were supported ably by an emerging percussive guitar talent in Daniel Champagne.
Rodrigo y Gabriela are now headed to NZ before heading back to Mexico and expect an album release later in 2018.
Daniel Champagne embarks on his Snap Shot Tour in April, hitting Blues on Broadbeach on 17-20 May and then plays the Gold Coast as the final date of the tour on 7 July.
IMAGES from The Enmore in Sydney (c) Kim Rudner