The story of “flamenco metal” guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela reads like a quirky, feel-good script straight out of Hollywood.
Two metalheads from Mexico City drop everything, swap their plug-in gear for classical guitars and head to the beaches of Ixtapa in their native country to start all over. They eventually relocate to Ireland and, despite not speaking the language or knowing a single soul, launch their careers after months of busking in Dublin thanks to an opening slot for Damien Rice. That career eventually leads to working on a musical score with Hans Zimmer for a blockbuster movie franchise, an intimate performance at the White House for Barack and Michelle Obama, and multiple performances at the Hollywood Bowl, to which they return this Sunday, Aug. 14.
This show will see the duo perform a full set of songs from their four original albums with the assistance of conductor Thomas Wilkins and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. “It's hard because we don't have rehearsals and we don't have time to rehearse with the [orchestra],” says Rodrigo Sanchez, speaking from Seville, Spain by phone. “They're all great musicians and it really relies on the conductor and the understanding we have with him. We're going to meet a couple of days before the show and going to talk to have a good understanding [so we all] know what to do.”
The good news is that much of their music was transcribed for a symphony during their time working with Zimmer on the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides soundtrack. The bad news is that it doesn't include music from their latest album, 9 Dead Alive, nor does it include the set lists from their most recent tours.
“We have been playing different arrangements,” explains Sanchez of their third appearance at the venue since 2011. “We have to come up with new arrangements so we're going to meet the week before. Basically, it's based on what we are playing live. We are not doing a special arrangement for the orchestra. They have to listen to what we have been playing live for the past three years or so. The new arrangements are based on those new versions.”
The concert at the Bowl comes near the end of a brief tour of California as well as one week before the official release of For Those About to Rock: La Historia de Rodrigo y Gabriela in cinemas across Mexico. The film is a documentary about the duo and their music by Alejandro Franco, who toured with them a few years ago. The film includes interviews with artists such as Robert Trujillo of Metallica (who is also one of many special guests scheduled to appear at the Bowl), Peter Gabriel and Alex Skolnick of Testament.
“The tour doesn't really have much to do with the documentary,” says Sanchez. “The director, Alejandro Franco from Mexico, was interested in our story. … It's his view on our career, which we are grateful that he's doing that, but it's really nothing to do with us.
“To make a documentary of yourself, I don't know if that's ever going to be a good idea,” he says with a laugh. “If it is, you have to be a super icon. It's certainly an unusual career in the way we've performed and the things we've achieved with just two guitars. It is unique, but this was four years ago, so many things have happened since then.”
Rodrigo y Gabriela will perform at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, Aug. 14.