Rodrigo y Gabriela’s epic intimacy comes to Chautauqua

Courtesy: RubyWorks
© Ebru Yildiz 2019

Mexican acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela might not be the first act that comes to mind when you think classic rock. But when the pair of musicians were growing up in Mexico City, they were influenced as much by bands like Metallica and Pink Floyd as by the flamenco and jazz traditions that course throughout their celebrated 20-year discography.  

The result of this influence is much more than life-affirming, you-gotta-hear-this flamenco-guitar covers of songs like Metallica’s “Orion” and Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” The group’s shimmering takes on such classics are arguably as essential as the originals, while bringing elements that take the songs to new heights. 

“Orion,” in particular, needed such youthful, joyful treatment and, well, life — which is exactly what Rodrigo y Gabriela gave it. Metallica’s original was released in 1986 but not played live by the band until 2006, the same year Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero gave it new life with their percussive, infectious playing on the former romantic couple’s self-titled breakthrough.

The duo hasn’t released a full-length record since 2019’s Grammy-winning Mettavolution, but this year’s cover of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” by Radiohead suggests the creative pair — who got their start busking on the streets of Dublin after leaving Mexico — hasn’t lost its passion for re-working contemporary rock standards as newly realized classics.  

But the original songs of Rodrigo y Gabriela have just as much to offer listeners as the duo’s unexpected covers, which could explain why so many have made their way into countless movies and TV shows. The pandemic gave fans a chance to dig deep into the band’s catalog and appreciate captivating, Latin-soaked originals like the playful staccato chirp of “Tamacún,” featured in the pilot episode of Breaking Bad, or the restless “Diem” from the band’s 2002 debut, which appropriately features a dedication to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth.  

Boulderites will get a chance to experience Rodrigo y Gabriela’s one-of-a-kind sound when the band rolls into Boulder on Sept. 25 to play a sold-out show at Chautauqua Auditorium. The show continues the band’s tradition of selling out venues from the Hollywood Bowl to London’s Shepherd’s Bush (five nights in a row). 

Ironically, it’s arguably the duo’s smallness — a sense of intimacy coursing through their acoustic instrumentation — that draws such large crowds. As the talented, seemingly symbiotic musicians begin their second decade as a creative outlet, their longevity speaks to a knack for creating a giant, enticing sound with two nylon-string guitars.

7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, Chautauqua Auditorium, 198 Morning Glory Dr., Boulder. Sold out.

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