Lately, when I go to a show, I find myself being or at least feeling like the oldest person there. Last night, I had what could be considered an opposite experience the first show of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Fall 2014, Nine Dead Alive Tour, at the Fillmore in Miami Beach. This was a show I was excited about, not just because I’m a fan, but because it was to be my five year old daughter’s first real concert. So I was with, I’m pretty sure, the youngest person at the show.
Right off the bat, the crowd seemed very subdued when we got there. There was no real buzz. As a matter of fact, there was barely anybody there. I know the show was close to sold out, because I had looked at possibly finding better seats. The merch table didn’t even have shirts; I was told they were on the way. I’m guessing that was an issue with this being the first show of the tour. Once we got to our seats in the mezzanine, I looked down and around to find that the very few people who were there, were basically older and perhaps “high society” types. Maybe I just felt that way because everyone seemed to be dressed fancy, by my standards, as I was wearing my recently purchased Jack White tour t-shirt.
The opener, Øystein Greni, a singer songwriter from Norway, was not bad, but I wish it had been someone with more energy. His songs were very folksy and serene. We actually wound up stepping out because my daughter was falling asleep and I had to make sure she didn’t fade out on me. The energy kicked up once he was done, with Rage Against the Machine, Tool and others being played over the PA and the place was filling up. At one point, I looked downstairs to see one person headbanging to “Killing in the Name Of.” Things were picking up.
Rod y Gab unassumingly took the stage and dove right into “The Soundmaker” from their latest album, Nine Dead Alive. It’s an uptempo tune, filled with everything they are known for, from Metallica inspired riffs to Gabriela’s percussive style. The stage was set fairly simply with four boxes that I can only assume were amps, and an abstract backdrop with pyramid shapes that served as a projection screen at several points throughout the show.
Immediately after the first song, Rodrigo addressed the audience, letting us know they were going to try something new this tour. They had a general list of songs they were realistically prepared to play, but the show would not necessarily follow a set list. Instead, he told us the basic rundown of songs and encouraged us to shout out what we wanted to hear. Of course, it wasn’t that simple either since he responded to a shout for “Tamacun,” by saying it was way too early for that. Instead, they went with another shout out for the next song, “Diablo Rojo,” also from the first album, and probably my favorite track. This set the crowd on fire and ready for the amazing Metallica medley that followed. I was impressed to see many of the older ladies in my area jamming hard to “Battery.”
I can’t knock the Fillmore as a venue because I normally love it. It’s not too big and not too small. Last night, however, maybe because I was in the mezzanine, which is not usual for me, it felt too big at times. The thing is, I’m biased because I will always prefer a smaller venue, so I wouldn’t say that Rod y Gab should necessarily have played at a smaller place. It’s quite likely a smaller venue would feel too crowded for them. And I’m sure I’d feel differently had I been in the front row.
All in all, the show was very laid back. It wasn’t quite as unstructured as Rod had led us to believe it would be, and he did address that towards the end, saying there was an order behind the chaos. This was a performance with some intention behind it. There were a couple of surprises like when Rod actually sang a pretty great cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” during which Rod had to stop and laugh when someone shouted, in response “You ARE special!” There was another vocal performance soon after when Øystein Greni came out to join them for a song they recently recorded together – Randy California’s “Nature’s Way.” There were also several moments where Rod or Gab would address the audience, that felt very intimate and off the cuff, and peppered with f-bombs. And it all came together for me in the last moments, when Gabriela talked about their influences, how they developed their style and ended by encouraging everyone to learn to play. She mentioned she’d try to post a tutorial on her style on their website soon. What this left me with is that Rod y Gab are passionate about their music and they aren’t just playing for the sake of playing. They want to share the feeling they get when they play with everyone. And I also think this is why they are trying to explore new styles, by incorporating vocals and working with other artists.
My daughter had a great time, banging on the balcony rail along with Gabriela, until she wore herself out a little over halfway through the show. She was half asleep for the rest of the time, but I hope when she’s older, she’ll remember her first concert fondly.