On a lukewarm summer night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic began their performance at the Hollywood Bowl with the national anthem, the United States and California flags flanking each side of the half-domed stage. “Buenos Noches,” Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor, greeted the crowd. The orchestra played various pieces that hailed from the likes of Cuba and Argentina, ultimately closing with “Huapango,” otherwise known as, according to Dudamel, Mexico’s second national anthem. Following Dudamel, all exited the stage, eventually returning in support of Rodrigo y Gabriela.
The Mexican classical guitar duo made their way to Los Angeles after a couple rounds in Fresno. They have been in the process of making new music and are beginning their tour across North America in anticipation of their new album set to release in 2019. “It’s very important for musicians to play new songs before they are released,” Rodrigo explained.
The pair devoted a good portion of the first part of their set to new music, characterized by their trademark quick, percussive beats. When Gabriela’s “Como estas,” was welcomed by a cheerful, deep “Bien,” she remarked: “It’s good to feel you because it’s hard to see you… I think this is what music is all about. It goes beyond words.” With the way the orchestra enhanced Rodrigo and Gabriela’s guitars and invigorated the watching experience, the audience could feel the stories in the music: a tribal drum beat, piercing pings, ever-changing tempo.
About halfway through, Rodrigo led into “11:11,” the title track of their 2009 album. They followed with “Tamacun,” the final song backed by the LA Philharmonic. The futuristic theater of the past glowed like a sunset, Angelenos clapping to the beat when they could. The pair took the solo portion of the set to present their newest release and first new music in four years: “Cumbé.” With “Cumbé” meaning “the dance of people of color,” one could have only guessed what was to come. However, the momentum winded down and they went into a slew of slowed down tracks, Rodrigo and Gabriela plopped down on the stage’s steps. The tender, sometimes ominous period of the evening came to a halt with a segue into “Stairway to Heaven.” Cheers welcomed the classic cover, inspiring Rodrigo to his feet, to which Gabriela, and the audience, eventually did too.
The set needed a final kick. Gabriela made sure all Angelenos knew it was time for the final hurrah: “You are now welcome to do crazy dancing and clapping.” It was her introduction to “Diablo Rojo.” Some took to the aisles to finally, truly dance, and a majority of the others stood and clapped. The duo drifted to different sides of the stage, often meeting in the middle, facing one another, as if battling it out– Gabriela beating at her guitar and Rodrigo lunging forward. The communal spirit inspired fervent clapping for the resounding final bit of the song; even Gabriela jumped while strumming away. With the song’s end, the entertainers and the entertained seemed equally happy. The audience sent their thanks via standing ovation; Gabriela with a salute, heart and a few jumps; and Rodrigo by her side with a big smile.