Arts & CultureMusicNightlife

Review: Rodrigo y Gabriela showcase their world-class guitar skills with the help of the Oregon Symphony



World-renowned guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have sold out venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and the Sydney Opera House. On Wednesday night, they sold out the historic Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

The Mexican guitarists have been to Portland many times throughout their 15-plus years of activity, including shows at the Schnitzer. But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that they performed for Portland with the help of the Oregon Symphony.

Gearing up for their first album release in four years, Rodrigo y Gabriela are in the midst of their North American tour. And what better way to generate hype for the new album then by fusing their already wildly intricate compositions with an eloquence of a state-of-the-art orchestra?

The Oregon Symphony kicked off the night with a few fitting arrangements. Norman Huynh, the youngest of the program’s conductors, commanded the symphony with intensity and precision. They began with the riveting “Gitanerias,” a piece by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona.

Then they delved into the famed Carmen suite, which featured excellent solos by first violinist Sarah Kwak and flutist Alicia DiDonato Paulsen. Their final piece was Arturo Márquez’s “Danzón No. 2.” Márquez’s Mexican sensibilities and the piece’s relentless Latin energy were the perfect precursor to what followed.

World-renowned guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have sold out venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and the Sydney Opera House. On Wednesday night, they sold out the historic Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

The Mexican guitarists have been to Portland many times throughout their 15-plus years of activity, including shows at the Schnitzer. But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that they performed for Portland with the help of the Oregon Symphony.

After a short break, Rodrigo y Gabriela emerged onto the stage with Huyn to great applause. The duo wasted little time and dived into the first track “Hanuman.” The two captured more excitement in their twin acoustic guitars than most bands do with a full repertoire of instruments.

Rodrigo plucked at the lead melodies with a fiery passion. Gabriela provided the intricate rhythms, including tasteful guitar percussion, while exhibiting astounding fingering techniques. Every sound was audible, from guitarists sliding fret to fret to pressing down on their strings, and yet, through the avidly complex compositions, there were perceivable no flaws or hiccups.

Rodrigo y Gabriela executed their compositions live as masterfully as what can be heard on the studio cuts. The symphony held a relatively low profile throughout this part of the performance, allowing for the guitarists to take center stage.

The strings were the most prevalent section, providing a soft caress in contrast to the rapid punches of guitar. Not to understate its presence, the symphony complimented the guitars beautifully, whether it was adding a new layer to the melody, texturing the chords or providing a chilling fill.

The duo spent most of their time with the orchestra playing unreleased tracks from their forthcoming album. The two would hop on the mic from time to time, showing genuine gratitude for sharing the same stage with such talented musicians, all while being funny and charismatic.

After their 45 minute performance, the symphony began emptying the stage, leaving the two guitarists unaccompanied. Rodrigo y Gabriela began their solo set sitting side-by-side at center stage. They played a slower composition, playing with the plethora of melodies and rhythms at their disposal.

Then, Rodrigo introduced their next track as one that “fits with [his] lifestyle:” “Echoes” by Pink Floyd. Their rendition didn’t span the 23 minutes like the original, but the duo perfectly captured the song’s dreamy melody and the dissonant breakdowns by using haltered plucks and dragging the pick along the low E string.

There were cameras placed on the necks of both guitars, and the footage was projected behind the performers during this part of the show, showing the intricate movements each guitarist made.

Rodrigo y Gabriela closed their show with one of their biggest hits, “Diablo Rojo.” Their performance concluded with a standing ovation from those in the audience. And like their accompanying talent and the complexity of their music would suggest, the two took a tasteful bow and wished Portland goodbye until next time.


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Jordan Montero

Jordan Montero

Arts & Culture writer for The Daily Emerald. Mostly write music related stuff. Follow me for all of your Jordan Montero needs.
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