A Minnesotan Falls for Flamenco Guitar with Rodrigo y Gabriela at First Avenue


It’s Friday night in Minneapolis after a long hot day and a flamenco guitar duo is the headliner for First Ave’s show. I knew before I got to the show that I was in for a treat. No amount of heat or lack of date to this show could ruin what I had the luxury of witnessing for nearly an hour and a half. And like so many others it is the genius of players like them that drove me to set down a guitar in the past, though I picked up a camera instead, and sit in completely adoration for the magic they make.

Opening for Rodrigo y Gabriela was Irish based musician Ryan Sheridan. Knowing very little about him I did a little listening on my way to the show, and wish I had done more. I tend to think people don’t expect a lot from an opener at many shows. But it was evident that fans last night don’t subscribe to that thinking as the place filled substantially by Ryan’s start. Like that feeling you may get while listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela, Ryan’s sound is a unique one which takes you on a journey and makes you want to get lost in the back country driving winding roads. Songs like Jigsaw were among crowd favorites and I’m Alive was Ryan’s moment to get the crowd involved as he didn’t back down until every person was chanting along. Per the usual I found myself listening to the song Superpower and realized, I know this!. Have yet to figure out where I heard it but worth a listen for sure.

Rodrigo y Gabriela took the stage promptly at 9:45. Irrelevant to many, but if you have ever seen these two perform you’ll know they are very much in the moment and their craft. I was warned even before this show that they very much dislike crowd chatter. A warning that the crowd luckily must have received before as well because there was very little of it. Admittedly a new fan of the guitar duo I was worried they may go on a string of songs which I had not heard, wrong. They got things started with a few hits such as Diablo Rojo and Tamacun, and I lost myself for a while. A show without a single word sung, and there was no need. You heard them through the music and that’s all that mattered.

I believe for every fan there are those moments you search out when you go to live music which are like a drug. Moments of purity and when all else ceases to exist for a time, and to witness it in a performer is even more special. Rodrigo y Gabriel has performed thousands of shows in the time since there first album 10 years ago. But watching them play you would never know as they shut their eyes, tune out the room, and without a single word of communication between them go about playing effortlessly through songs. You appreciate the music all that much more seeing them lost in it all, it was a gift.

Moving along from my moment of bliss and back to the point! I can’t tell you with any certainty what the set list was for the night, and to be honest if won’t matter. Listen to them, listen to all their music, it’s worth it. But what I can tell you is if you have heard Stairway to Heaven, or if you somehow have not, you need to hear their cover of it.

If you’re like me you may be thinking “Andrew, flamenco guitar cover of Stairway to Heaven? You must like listening to customer service waiting music too?!”. Answer, only sometimes. But this cover has an energy to it that is more than a tip of the hat to the original and another one to check out if you’re new to their music.

Still absorbing the entirety of the night I can say without question I’ll be back for their next stop in Minneapolis. Setting aside their photogenic selves I was floored watching Rodrigo y Gabriela play and found myself forgetting why I was there in the first place. Whether you listen to flamenco music at all it is hard to deny the talent and you’ll soon realize why they’ve been going ten years strong. Artists of the truest type it was a pleasure seeing them bring their unique sound to First Ave and having a captivated crowd who wanted nothing but to soak it all in made for a great night. Check them out, don’t hesitate, just do it.

Song Recommendations:

Ryan Sheridan: Superpower, I’m Alive, Home, and Jigsaw Rodrigo y Gabriela: Diablo Rojo, Stairway to Heaven, Soundmaker, Tamacun, and Juan Loco