posted on November 09, 2008 18:00
A review of the album 'Live in Japan' by Rodrigo y Gabriela
Review Snapshot: The live CD may come across as canned, but watching the DVD really brings back some beautiful recollections of watching Rodrigo and Gabriela perform live. This is really worth buying if you're a budding Spanish-guitarist or want to look at just how passionate and measured Rod 'n' Gab still are about their music. Not groundbreaking as an album, but enjoyable as a memory.
The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10
The smell of Nag Champa will forever remind me of my first Rod 'n' Gab gig in NUI Maynooth, in, as far as I can remember, 2002. It cost a mere €2 to get in, yet there were only about twenty-five unsuspecting students surrounding the make-shift stage in the centre of the Student's Union venue.
Gabriela was gorgeous, Rodrigo's hair intrigued me, and every member of the audience who'd ever picked up a guitar felt intimidated by their amazing skills.
From Maynooth to Japan is quite a feat for the two Spanish guitarists, and their story is the fairy-tale dream where you finally get a happy ending: yes, they are skilled, and yes, they did reap the rewards, with gigs across Europe and beyond. Their live album with CD and DVD, 'Live in Japan', shows just how far the pair have come since they performed to only a few, and busked cold days on Grafton Street.
Reviewing a live album is never without difficulty. Sometimes, live versions of tracks are better than studio-produced songs, with the result that listening back to an album after a gig, you can never quite get the gist of that amazing performance you saw - Thom Yorke singing 'Idioteque' at the Big Top in Punchestown springs to mind. Other live albums and tracks include extended versions, track remixes and stories (like the notorious 'Deefer the Dog' story Glen Hansard tells on The Frames' live album Set List).
The Rod 'n' Gab live album is unfortunately somewhat less relevant than other live albums have been. If you think back on the success of Rodrigo and Gabriela albums, one thing immediately stands out: the albums don't have much production, they are raw, and capture the live sound of Rod 'n' Gab's virtuosity and the back-and-forth dialogue between their guitar work. As a result, listening to the 'Live in Japan' album, the only thing that differed vastly between previous albums and this one is the inclusion of hand-clapping, a bit of banter (some of which Gabriela speaks in Japanese), and lots of 'woooo'-ing from the audience. At times this has a bizarre canned laughter effect that you just don't want to hear when listening to classical and Latin rhythms, when you are focussing on every crescendo and decrescendo that Rod 'n' Gab present so expertly. There are a few new tracks, along with old favourites such as 'Foc' and their version of Metallica's 'One'. The medley, which includes 'Seven Nation Army,' seems a bit dated though, and almost too sing-along and pantomime-esque for me.
The DVD starts off with lighting that is a bit dark, but this gives way to a much clearer vision of the duo, and we get to see their handiwork in greater detail. For me, the DVD evoked far greater memories and reverence than the CD.
The DVD is almost worth getting the 'Live in Japan' album for, because it does remind you of the passion and reverie that Rodrigo y Gabriela lose themselves in, and the fun the audience has by participating in that performance. That beauty can really only be captured of course by going to see them play, but the DVD has the added benefit in that it will also assist budding Spanish-guitar players learn how to imitate the skills of the pair.