Photo by Steve Cross.
To see more photos of Rodrigo y Gabriela, check out the slideshow at nashvillescene.com.
With all the sweaty rock shows we frequent, it’s a rare treat to catch what laypeople refer to as “concerts” in the beautiful, well air-conditioned Ryman. Former thrash metal guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela, however, were too enticing to pass up. It’s understood that the ornate, elegant nature of the Ryman is part of its charm, but when it’s only half full (with a surprisingly high concentration of balding gringos), it feels more than just a bit like a church—especially during the lovelorn, shaky crooning of pseudo-bluesy opener Mike Younger. Younger wasn’t quite our speed with his cheesy, bare-chested riffing, so we spent most of his set downing some overpriced cold ones in the Ryman’s lobby. We made it back to our seats just in time to catch Rodrigo and Gabriela taking the stage. We honestly expected anyone who spends as much time practicing guitar as these two to be fat Guitar Center types in matching Hendrix shirts; turns out they’re quite striking individuals. From the moment they began, they played like they were on fire. Gabriela pounded out triplets on the body of her guitar, her hand flailing wildly as though her wrist were composed of rubber. Rodrigo, in stark contrast to his colleague, used controlled, miniscule movements of his strumming hand to pick out riffs at flight-of-the-bumblebee speed.
The duo also showed their rock roots, playfully breaking into bars of “Smoke on the Water,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Seven Nation Army” and “Voodoo Chile” at random intervals. Just before Rodrigo and Gabriela started in on the sinister chord progression of Metallica’s “Orion,” their ever-present guitar tech attached a tiny camera to each headstock, producing close but shaky footage of their furious fingers that was projected onto the screen behind them. At one point, Rodrigo asked if anyone in the audience wanted to perform a song of his or her own. The woman sitting directly to our left volunteered, and while she was no virtuoso, she had a surprisingly impressive voice. Pretty good considering that Rodrigo himself admitted bringing audience members onstage often proves to be "fuckin’ ’orrible." With their enchanting presence and genuine, unbridled talent, Rodrigo y Gabriela were a perfect fit for the Ryman. Finding our way back to the car proved to be a bit challenging with our faces melted off, but we managed.