Rodriguez, Union Chapel, London
added: 21 Dec 2009 // gig date: 9 Dec 2009
reviewer: Claudia A.
4 / 5
For those of you not quite familiar with Mexican/American musician Rodriguez (aka Sixto Diaz Rodriguez), let’s hope that his recent UK gigs have changed all that.
Judging from his recent concert at London’s Union Chapel, Rodriguez has a hardcore fan base here – and deservedly so!
Detroit born Rodriguez recorded his debut album ‘Cold Fact’ in 1969 and dreamt of fame and fortune, but sadly, his captivating blend of psychedelic folk-rock didn’t receive the attention it deserved. When his 1972 follow-up album ‘Coming From Reality’ also flopped, Rodriguez decided to return to reality! To be fair, it should be pointed out that his idiosyncratic behaviour didn’t exactly help matters, what’s with him playing only at dive bars, or with his back turned at the audience during an industry showcase. He carried on with his job in a petrol station and furthermore campaigned for his local government amongst other activities – always staying true to his own beliefs.
The universe works in strange ways, however, and it worked in strange ways for Rodriguez: his debut album was ‘re-discovered’ in various places around the globe and over time it gathered cult status especially in South Africa. As it often happens with things that carry a cult-label, rumours about the singer also begun to circulate. Some believed Rodriguez to be dead; others simply assumed he’d vanished into obscurity, or to rot in prison, or being locked away in a mental institute. With the exception of some small tours Down Under in the late 1970’s, practically nothing had been heard of him for almost 30 years. Until journalist Craig Bartholomew found Rodriguez alive and kicking in Detroit. However, the singer had no idea about his cult status and only learned about it when his oldest daughter discovered a website dedicated to her father. He decided it’s would be high time to embark on another tour – predictably enough across South Africa. In addition, a New York DJ included Rodriguez’ track ‘Come Get It, I got It’ on a compilation, thus helping spread the artist’s cult status further.
His brilliant ‘Coming From Reality’ album (originally recorded with the contributing talents of Chris Spedding and producer Steve Rowland) was unearthed by Light In The Attic Records and re-released in 2009. An inspired move, as no doubt Rodriguez’ cult status will continue to grow.
His concert at the Union Chapel started with ‘Inner City Blues’ and continued with ‘Only Good For Conversation’. Next was the mellow and rather folk-orientated ‘Crucify Your Mind’ and the audience was clearly spellbound both by Rodriguez performance and the atmospheric church setting. The catchy ‘To Whom It May Concern’ with its slightly 60’s pop tune homage gathered much applause and Rodriguez and his musicians visibly enjoyed the appreciation they got. ‘I Think Of You’ is a wonderful love song with emphasis on acoustic guitar – with lyrics like ‘Just a song we shared out here brings memories back when you were here’ it’s the perfect song to listen to during romantic moments.
Equally catchy with its curious blend of folk and retro pop is ‘Like Janis’ – like all Rodriguez songs, it’s also a brilliant example of his craftsmanship as a songwriter:
‘And you measure for wealth by the things you can hold
And you measure for love by the sweet things you’re told
And you live in the past or a dream that you’re in
And your selfishness is your cardinal sin.’
Next came his most famous track ‘Sugarman’ – a song that needs no further introduction. It was used in the 2006 Heath Ledger film ‘Candy’. As Rodriguez sang ‘Won’t you hurry ‘cos I’m tired of these scenes,’ it became apparent that the audience became a little tired of not being able to dance along to the music within the holy surroundings of the chapel. ‘Can we get up and dance?’ they addressed Rodriguez, ‘we wanna get up and dance’ some audience members insisted. ‘Oh, I’m too ancient for that’ joked Rodriguez, followed by ‘No, you’re not ancient but legend’ from the audience.
‘I’m Gonna Live’ and ‘I Wonder’ were next, but when he performed ‘Climb Up On My Music’ the audience simply stood up and bopped along to the rhythm and the beat! Needless to say Rodriguez was called back for an encore and once again he played his magic. He thanked his audience for being simply wonderful, and his daughter for discovering the fansite in the first place. Without her, he would not be here performing, he remarked. Something tells me he will be back performing on our shores very soon!