Although it is one of the larger venues in the state, somehow 1stBank center eluded this blog until Tuesday night. It's not that the 1stBank center doesn't attract great shows, some of the most sought after names both new and old have been through that venue, even during the short time this blog has existed. It was just that it wasn't until Tuesday's shows that everything aligned, so I readily made my way to cover a band I've been eager to see for a long time. It would be a great opportunity to see an innovative duo stretch genres all the while exhibiting breathtaking instrumental skill, and that was pretty much exactly what unfolded that night.

Rodrigo y Gabriela & C.U.B.A.

I usually strive to make every show from the very beginning until the end, but on a few occasions it doesn't quite work out, as was the case Tuesday night, so I was unable to catch the opening set from C.U.B.A. Luckily, I was still able to get a taste of that band, as they served as the backing band for Rodrigo y Gabriela's latest release, Area 52. C.U.B.A. had a six-piece band (electric bass, drums/percussion, tres, flute/saxophone, trumpet, keyboard) to go along with the headliners Rodrigo S├ínchez (lead guitar) and Gabriela Quintero (rhythm guitar) that compose the Rodrigo y Gabriela duo.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

The seven musicians opened the show with a bang with a reworked multi-arrangement version of "Foc" where the band put in a little bit of improvisational work by transitioning into different styles, such as salsa, while maintaining the songs theme. Re-invention of some of Rodrigo y Gabriela's best songs continued to be a theme, as their recent release Area 52 was an album composed of exactly that. The ensemble took Rodrigo y Gabriela's acoustic flamenco guitar meets heavy metal sound and added a very capable Cuban band to the mix, giving the band's concept an entirely new and deeper dimension.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

As they continued on with their set they continued to reveal their tweaked expansive arrangements with performances of pieces from their new album including "Santo Domingo", "Hanamun" and "Logos". For those used to the pure two guitar Rodrigo y Gabriela sound, the new arrangements may have been a bit overwhelming with all the layered sounds competing with Rodrigo y Gabriela's fretwork. But it was fun picking out the similarities and difference all the while being in awe of the sheer power of this new, extra full sound. For instance, "Hanamun" featured a very different arrangement from the song featured on 11:11, especially since for this piece Rodrigo traded his acoustic guitar for an electric one, giving the piece an extra helping of rock 'n' roll.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

The full band set-up was intriguing and a refreshing, but I still have a soft spot for the pure two guitar sound, so my favorite portion of the performance was when Rodrigo y Gabriela played alone. First, Rodrigo took the stay and played a few staggering solo pieces that showed off his complete command of his guitar frets. He started on one side of the stage, taking a seat on a monitor as to be closer to the audience, and churned out acoustic six-string beauty. He then made his way to the other side of the stage as to include the other half of the audience and seemed to one-up himself as if he was in a guitar solo competition.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Then, Gabriela came out on stage and showed off her own guitar prowess. Her percussive style of play mesmerized the ears, as she was able to keep a steady rhythm with the fullness of a drum section by tapping on her guitar all the while strumming her strings. With a subtle dose of a flanger pedal, she was able to create an incredible range of sounds with just herself and a guitar. Then she started the familiar rhythm of one of my favorite songs, "Buster Voodoo", as Rodrigo joined her on stage, beginning the duo portion of the show.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Their duo performance was full of a few surprises as well, as the two often traded improvised solos within the pieces they played. "Buster Voodoo" is already an incredibly technical song in itself, but somehow the two managed to make it even more so on the fly - a testament to their truly remarkable playing ability. When hearing their recorded songs, it can be hard to believe that the depth of sound heard is just from two guitars, but seeing the duo perform their songs live - with rapid strumming, precise picking, and deliberate tapping - it all becomes strikingly real.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Most of the remaining set featured both the duo of Rodrigo y Gabriela and the backing band C.U.B.A., as they continued to showcase more material from the Area 52 album. The powerful arrangements of standout songs like "11:11", "Master Maqui" and "Juan Loco" resonated throughout the arena, enticing concert goers out of their seats and onto their feet into bouts of dancing. By the time their set came to a close, the entire venue attendance was up, clapping and cheering so loudly that it reverberated into every corner of the large 1stBank Center space. Rodrigo y Gabriela returned to the stage, playing a couple quick selections as a duo before introducing the members of C.U.B.A. and ending the night with a full band grand finale.

Whether you are a fan of flamenco guitar, Latin music, hard rock or even heavy metal, the way Rodrigo y Gabriela performs bridges all the gaps, bringing fans together that probably wouldn't realize otherwise they had a common interest. Those who appreciate guitar will find a lot to love, and the members of C.U.B.A. are no slouch either, bringing about even more flair to the overall sound. This is definitely a show that needs to be seen, as the amount of skill on stage at anyone time is always apparent and just plain mesmerizing.

See more pictures from this show in the Facebook photo album. Like the Concerted Effort page to stay up to date.

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