Listening to this album, it’s hard to believe that there are only two people performing this music. Using their acoustic guitars as both stringed instruments and improvised hand drums, along with the occasional assistance of an effects pedal, Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela skillfully weave together intricate rhythms and melodies. Recorded live in Japan earlier this year in front of an appreciative crowd, their flawless performance was captured both in audio and visual formats, and are presented in a dual disc package, released last month.
What makes Live in Japan even more engaging that the previous studio recordings is the inclusion of a DVD containing full video recordings of the pair performing five of the songs on the disc. Watching the passion and focus they give to the music they create, and the audience’s reaction to that, enhances the listening experience. My only complaint is that while the lighting in the club where this was filmed may have been adequate for the live audience, but it is less than ideal for the video recording. Most of the scenes are dark and grainy, and as the colored lighting shifted, the colors in the video alternated between having too much red, blue, or yellow. It’s an interesting artistic touch, but frustrating to those who may want a clearer view of the performers.
The music that Rodrigo y Gabriela create is infectious and reaches across many language and cultural barriers to touch fans around the world. The pair got their start busking in Ireland several years ago, and since then, the Rodrigo y Gabriela fan movement has swept across continents. This live album includes many of the band’s popular tunes, and serves as a “best of” recording much better than any compilation of their past studio work could attempt to do, mainly because as precise and flawless as the studio recordings can be, they do not convey the energy contained in a live performance, which is a significant part of their appeal.
If acoustic guitars, hand percussion, jazz, Latin rhythms, and the driving energy of metal are things that appeal to you, please take the time to listen to Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Live in Japan.