Rodrigo y Gabriela, Live in France (ATO Records, 2011)

The Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have had a busy couple of years, between the release of their album 11:11 in 2009, their contribution to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and the run of shows that culminated in the recording of their newest album, Live in France. The live album has a considerable amount of overlap with 11:11, but the context of a concert setting (single takes, no overdubs or margin for error) makes the instrumental virtuosity and chemistry of Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero that much more impressive.

Like 11:11, Live in France opens with the blistering track Hanuman.  This tune (an instrumental, like all their tracks) is the perfect showcase of Rodrigo's flamenco-inspired lead runs back by Gabriela's wonderfully and uniquely percussive rhythm guitar.  The performances throughout are superb, but people who have 11:11 won't find a whole lot unfamiliar here.  Of the eleven tracks, eight come from 11:11.  The exceptions are solo performances from the two musicians and the closing song "Tamacun" from their self-titled album released in 2006.  Rodrigo's solo performance is noteworthy for the smattering of familiar heavy metal riffs he inserts into it, and "Tamacun" benefits from the audience festively singing along with the melody. Otherwise, the tracks don't really add to what is otherwise already on 11:11.

Of course, 11:11 is an excellent album, and there's certainly nothing wrong with the performance of the same material on Live in France. Ultimately, what you do get from the live album is a deeper appreciation that all of the amazing playing is quite real.  Rodrigo y Gabriela genuinely are as good as they sound, and that makes for fun listening.  And hearing the audience get into it, seemingly responding to every note, is an added bonus.

Overall grade: A-

reviewed by Scott

A live performance of "Tamacun"

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