Latitude 2009

Rodrigo Y Gabriela

John Mulvey

It's been a night of being proved wrong, for me at least, at Latitude. As I'm walking across the site, I can hear The Good, The Bad And The Queen, and they sound really good. I'd previously pegged them as a rather self-conscious trip into psychogeography and musicianly fandom for Damon Albarn. But here the overworked fug clears and the elegaic true quality of the songs - and those Simonon basslines, of course - comes to the fore.

And then there's Rodrigo Y Gabriela. I must admit that, until tonight, I'd never heard this band, marketed so aggressively as a novelty band predicated on the schtick of heavy rock flamenco. Which seemed like a terrible idea, on paper.

The thing is, when you see this furious and largely compelling duo, the schtick proves to be true, but it's also revealed as a surprisingly good idea. Parts of their epic set are like a Balearic rave-up at the Cafe Del Mar; pulsating, hedonistic music where their boot thumps replace the beats. Other parts, meanwhile, suggest how "Led Zeppelin III" might have sounded if Jimmy Page had fixated on Segovia rather than Bert Jansch.

Anyway, it works. They're an extraordinarily crowd-pleasing proposition - I can't recall a bigger and more euphoric reception all weekend. As the giant screen behind them focuses in on their blurring fingers, darting over the body of the guitar as much as the strings, the audience spreading far beyond the tent are whooping, clapping and stomping along.

When Rodrigo Y Gabriela chuck in a snatch of Metallica, they go wild. When they play a straight version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", it seems like everyone is singing along.

It's exhausting and exhilarating to watch, and after an hour, I must confess, the relentless virtuosity becomes more of a gimmick than anything else. But still, as I walk home through the woods, past a bunch of lightsticks dancing to the Klaxons, it seems like a pretty good end to the live business for the day. God knows what happens next.


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