Last night in Oakland, a power couple named Rodrigo y Gabriela riveted Oakland…gradually.

In a sold-out concert at the 3,300-capacity Fox Theater, the pair opened with a full jazz ensemble, unconventional for a band that’s made its name as an acoustic guitar duo.

“As you might have noticed, we are not alone this time,” Rodrigo told the audience, which responded with a mix of cheers and boos. The concert -– the third in their nationwide tour -– served as a platform to showcase new talent and woo die-hard fans to their latest experiment in world music.

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s latest album, “Area 52,” includes a 13-piece Cuban orchestra called C.U.B.A. and other guest musicians from the Caribbean.

At the concert, one song in which the bass player performed the guitar line that Rodrigo normally plays receives tepid applause. “It’s more Latin,” says Antonio Arteaga, “which is where their roots are. It’s not better, or worse. Just different.”

Raised in Mexico City, Rodrigo and Gabriella spent years in Dublin. They left home as artistic outcasts, mixing sounds of Led Zepellin and Metallica with flamenco.

“It was bastardization to the purists,” says concert attendee Preetum Shenoy. She bought their new album looking for fresh content. “It’s smart. They put thought into it.”

Once the extended band clears the stage, and it’s just the two principals and their guitars, Shenoy smiles. “Raw energy,” she says.

Chemistry, too. Rodrigo and Gabriella began dating as teenagers. Now 38, they’re together but unmarried. In concert, Gabriella bounces up and down, shredding her guitar while aerobicizing; her partner stands with feet firmly planted.

They sold out at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley too. It’s Christian Daun’s fourth time seeing the pair. “Two people play guitar and the place sells out,” he says, “the band is solid. But fans know what we’re here for.”


Aarti Shahani

Aarti Shahani is a reporter at KQED, focusing on business and technology. She came to San Francisco as a Kroc Fellow with NPR. She was part of the ProPublica team awarded an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award for Post Mortem – a series examining the unregulated coroner and medical examiner industry. Shahani got her Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, supported by the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship and a Public Service Fellowship. She studied globalization as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. She was raised in Flushing, Queens – in the nation’s most diverse zip code.

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