Rodrigo y Gabriela, Devotchka, and Lord Huron @ Hollywood Bowl, 7/14/2013

My first show of the year at the Hollywood Bowl was a good one.  We got to the Bowl early enough to have a great picnic spread in the park adjacent to the stadium and still make it to our seats for the first of two openers, Lord Huron.  The L.A.-based band played a nice set of folk-tinged rock.  The catchy “Time To Run”, the second to last song of their set, was the highlight.  The beat and melody remind me of something 80’s Paul Simon would have put together.  The rest of the songs seemed to be played as more straight-forward rock than the softer, harmonizing touches of their studio album.

Next up was Colorado’s Devotchka.  Not sure when I’d formed my opinion of this band, but I wasn’t as excited to see them as some others in my group.  Having spent some time listening to them after the show, combined with the great energy in their live show, I was won over.  They have a little bit of a kitchen sink approach to their sound, there’s bits and pieces of a lot of different musical styles in their songs.  The constant is the distinctive and soulful voice of lead singer Nick Urata.  He can really convey emotion in his voice and he kept the interest of the gathering crowd throughout their set (except for the chatters behind us who talked almost constantly through the first two acts and the first part of R&G’s set).

I had seen R&G one other time in LA at a theater and they didn’t do much in terms of a stage show because they don’t really need one.  They provide plenty of entertainment themselves.  So I was a little surprised when the Bowl’s rotating stage swung around and their was a video screen flanked by two cardboard recreations of brick walls.  I thought for a second, that would be cool if they did an acoustic instrumental version of the “The Wall”.  Alas, that’s not what they had in store for us.

P1090187Not to worry though, they still put on a hell of  a show.  They are working on new material so they announced they would be playing mostly old songs with a few new things thrown in that they were working on.  If you’re not familiar with the group, they are, as their name suggests, a male / female duo from Mexico.  Who play guitar very well.  Like super great.

Since they have no percussion section, they make their own using their fingers and hands on the guitar frame.  And they often do this while simultaneously playing.  The video screen did some great close ups of their fingers dancing all over their guitars.  Gabriela especially has rubber fingers that bounce all over the place.

You’d think that two people playing instrumental songs on guitar might get a tad boring over an hour and a half.  It didn’t.  They mix it up a little with solo pieces, where I imagine the other person goes backstage and dips their fingers in ice for five minutes.  Gabriela transfixed the audience with her finger “beat boxing” and Rodrigo eked out some sounds from his acoustic guitar that I did not think were possible.  They did throw a curve ball when they wheeled out a piano and had some accompaniment for a few songs of Cuban-influenced songs from their 2012 collaborative album with C.U.B.A.  Those songs really got people on their feet.

An encore of a few songs kept the tempo upbeat and Rodrigo went shirtless.  Gabriela did not join him.

Here’s a video of one of Gabriela’s solos:

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