Rodrigo y Gabriela in Columbus

Kristopher Weiss on May 27, 2024
Rodrigo y Gabriela in Columbus

Obliterating the separation between performers and listeners, Rodrigo y Gabriela took their music to the people in the most literal sense. 

The unaccompanied guitar players performed two acoustic numbers – “Diablo Rojo”and “Tamacun” – amid ecstatic audience members May 15 at Columbus Athenaeum. Making their first appearance in Ohio’s capital city, the pair played with abandon; urged their fans to clap out the respective beats; and fist bumped and hugged their followers before returning to the stage after their mid- and late-show forays into the seating area. 

The latter led to Gabriela’s solo spot, during which she commanded the sparse, fog-shrouded and LED-lighted stage as she hunched over her acoustic guitar, playing pedal effects through the strings and percussion on the instrument’s body. As Gabriela bowed deeply – her hands reaching the stage – and blew kisses to the audience, Rodrigo re-emerged with an electric guitar slung over his back to finger a stand-suspended acoustic on the tender “Finding Myself Leads Me to You.”

Like all the numbers in the RyG songbook, these are  instrumental compositions. Unlike much the material performed in the 17-song, 100-minute gig – about half drawn from 2023’s In Between Thoughts…A New World – they’re unplugged. More-recent offerings found Rodrigo playing electric, steel and talk-box guitars to Gabriela’s acoustic with ambient textures and beats piped in.

The duo pogoed, circled the stage – each other, too – and faced off; he striking wide-legged metal poses; she banging her head and guitar. They occasionally separated and moved to the front of the stage to work pedals – one for each player – and make eye contact with fans.  

From metal to flamenco to classical, RyG spanned the world of music and spoke volumes while saying virtually nothing. Which is what the universal language of live performance does on nights such as this.