Acoustic guitar duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, performed at Pfleeger Concert Hall on Saturday, April 16 as part of the Marie Rader Presenting Series from the College of Performing Arts. 

The group consists of Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, who hail from Mexico City, Mexico. They first performed together in the thrash metal band, Tierra Ácida, before visiting Ireland in order to embark on a trip around Europe. However, they ran out of money at their first stop and instead ended up playing guitar as buskers in the streets of Dublin. That experience allowed them to hone their skills and establish their own unique identity as performers. Rodrigo y Gabriela released their self-titled first album in 2006, which was met with widespread acclaim both in Ireland and internationally. 

Their combination of technical prowess and eclectic influences have resulted in a distinctive sound that is rivaled by none. Rodrigo y Gabriela is characterized by Quintero’s percussive strumming technique, in which she thumps her hand on the guitar body in between strumming the strings. Her right hand is mesmerizing to watch as it flourishes across the guitar, coaxing out a rich texture of sounds that anchor each song. Beside her on the stage, Sanchez breaks out swift leads that guide the melody. Together they are an unstoppable force wielding their instruments with both great intensity and sensitivity. 

Rodrigo y Gabriela perform their acoustic set at Pfleeger. / Photo via Sam Laflamme

The set was stripped down due to Rodrigo y Gabriela playing without in-ear monitors for this show. They took a more acoustic approach, neglecting the pedalboards full of effects that were set up at the front of the stage. The setlist included several medlies arranged just for the occasion and a collection of songs that spanned their entire career. 

One of these medlies was a mashup of two tracks titled “Terracentric” and “Electric Soul” from their most recent album “Mettavolution,” which won a Grammy in 2020 for Contemporary Instrumental Album. The title track of “Mettavolution” was also performed, featuring their guitar tech Rob joining them on stage to play the electric guitar parts which are in the studio version.  

Those in attendance were fortunate to hear two unreleased tracks, which Quintero has given the working titles “Melancholia” and “Dublin.” The latter was named for their busking days.

“When I play this song and close my eyes it feels like we are playing in the streets of Dublin again,” she explained. 

Rodrigo y Gabriela continue their spectacular set sitting on stage. / Photo via Sam Laflamme

However, these new songs will not be on the upcoming album, which is expected to be released in February 2023. During the pandemic, Rodrigo y Gabriela were struck with inspiration and put together a project which is once again pushing the boundaries of their already innovative sound. 

“It’s a bit different… we are happy with it because it has the Rodrigo y Gabriela sound but with a full orchestra,” Sanchez said. 

The concert was an engaging live experience, with the audience often clapping along to the beat of Quintero’s percussion and cheering when they recognized fan favorites such as “Tamacun” and “Diablo Rojo.” Quintero and Sanchez acknowledged the crowd between songs, noting how they could feel the energy radiating from the audience and hear the subtleties in the guitars due to the lack of in-ear monitors and the acoustics of the concert hall space. 

“That was actually the first time I ever heard them… it was honestly amazing, I’m still recovering. It was incredible,” said Desiree Biczel, a Rowan student and music therapy major who was in attendance. 

At the heart of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s success is their immersive live show. Their style of utilizing every part of the guitar and its sonic capabilities results in the instruments becoming extensions of themselves. This approach gives witnesses the impression that Rodrigo y Gabriela are not merely recreating songs live, but that they are actively constructing and expressing the music as they play. It was surely a concert that no one will soon forget. 

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