‘I’m supposed to advertise myself, so any questions?’ seems to be Wallis Bird’s personal calling card for the evening. Most of the queries revolve around Wallis’ phone number (087-4, apparently), but she’s doing a solid job of advertising herself without the assorted between-song antics, producing a charismatic, bubbly singer-songwriter set that’s a touch cheesy yet intriguing and fulfilling at the same time. No doubt Wallis picked up a few fans along the way, but right from the off there’s no doubt who the sell-out Olympia crowd are wedged against the barriers for.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela started out as a pair of buskers on Grafton Street; and for all their Latino influences (Gabriela even throws a spattering of Spanish into her mini speeches), the instrumental pair have worked the local circuit with astonishing self-assurance, and after nine years find themselves with a mammoth, vocal following. Eclectic, metal-influenced yet with a style entirely of their own making, guitars simply weren’t made to play music like this; it simply wouldn’t occur to most performers to even try.
Gabriela’s flicks, taps and twangs her guitar in a medley of playful and creative ways, producing a bass-heavy hum from chafing her strings, fingering her notes at speed and treating us to a full on, open-mouthed smile after some of the livelier moments, as though she’s just as astonished by the noise her instrument is making as we are. Rodrigo is more about the rock stances, egging on the audience with waves of the arm and treating us to a rare piece of slide guitar, running a vibrating beer bottle along the neck of his axe to produce a bizarre resonating pitch.
Between the two of them, there’s very little this Mexican duo can’t do with a pair of six strings, from provide their own percussion to entice each other into an ever-accelerating musical face off centre stage. The occasional recognizable snippets of the likes of Led Zep and Metallica are tinged so heavily with Rod & Gab’s own enticing, distinctly Latino take on rhythm and style, and layered so solidly that the subtle additions fit right in.
There’s arguably not much further these two can go in terms of the domestic scene. With a number one album, a live show that leaves a trail of lesser guitar players in its wake and even the foresight to lace the venue with incense before they start (that, or someone near State was wearing a particularly strong and ethnic brand of perfume), they deserve every last ounce of string-flicking success they can draw in. There are gray hairs aplenty alongside the fashionable young things at the Olympia tonight, a sign of the level they’ve reached, perhaps, and post encore, there’s not a single tiny corner of the stalls that doesn’t rise, bellow and yelp at the stage in pure, unadulterated pleasure. Rodrigo Y Gabriela remain inimitable, beguiling and not even one note short of utterly dazzling. But then we knew that already, right?
Photos by Julie Bienvenu.