Normally, Rod & Gab command the stage with just their own acoustic guitars, using lightning-fast fingers to create pulsing arrangements. But the addition of C.U.B.A. - six Cuban musicians with whom the duo recorded their latest album, "Area 52," - brought an exciting new Cuban flavor to their music.
The trumpets, sax, keyboards, drums and bass embellished several tracks from "Area 52" in the live setting - "Santo Domingo," "11:11" and "Juan Loco" among them. Rodrigo traded in his acoustic for an electric on "Hanuman" and delivered searing solos.
The backing band departed midway through the show, leaving Rodrigo y Gabriela for a solo section that became explosive. There was almost a heavy metal feel when Gabriela slapped her guitar as Rodrigo pounded his strings, with trippy black and white images on the big screen behind them.
At one point, Rodrigo teased the crowd with the first few notes to "Sweet Child Of Mine" before cutting it off. The group did follow through with the entire intro to "Stairway to Heaven" during an encore jam session.
We loved the duo when they played the Ravinia Festival two years ago, but their sound was even more vibrant last night with C.U.B.A. at the Chicago Theatre.
And the best news of all? Rodrigo promised he and Gabriela will have a new album next year - "if the world doesn't end in December."
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