I know every time I go and see a concert, I refer to its respective night as ‘one of the best nights of my life’. But Wednesday night genuinely was one of the best nights in my life. Why? I was lucky enough to see Sixto Rodriguez live! Rodriguez was my first big concert (I have, of course, seen many Beatles tributes before. And I’ve been to WOMAD and the Adelaide Fringe), and let me tell you now, it was a first concert to be very proud of! The atmosphere was amazing, and I swear the live versions of his songs are even better than the versions found on his albums, Cold Fact and Coming From Reality!
For those of you who don’t know who Rodriguez is, you may have heard of a documentary about him called Searching for Sugarman. Searching For Sugarman tells the incredible story of Rodriguez’s career. The basic story is that Rodriguez releases an album called Cold Fact in 1970. It sells something like six copies in the US. But somehow a bootleg of this album found itself in South Africa. Rodriguez quickly became ‘bigger than Elvis’ there, but nobody had a clue about who he really was. In fact, he was assumed to have committed suicide on stage in the 1970s. However, some South Africans found him anything but dead in his Detroit home, and ever since Rodriguez has been a cult hit across the world. But what Searching for Sugarman fails to show is that Rodriguez was also really popular here, in Australia! Not only did Cold Fact and Coming From Reality both make numbers 23 and 24 respectively on the Australian Albums chart on original release, Rodriguez also did two Australian tours in 1979 and 1981. Cold Fact reached number 11 on this year’s charts, too.
My mum and I became Rodriguez fans after our osteopath told us about Searching For Sugarman. Mum watched it (on a plane to Singapore in January) a few months before I did. I must have watched it in around March or April, and I was hooked! So as you will imagine, Mum and I got excited when — a couple of months ago — we discovered that Rodriguez was touring Australia this month…
…But we soon found that the tickets were nearly impossible to get! Scalpers had seemingly bought up big, and there had been no limit on presale tickets. And the ticketing website wouldn’t really work. So we nearly didn’t go. However — exactly two weeks before the concert — I found out that Mum had managed to get tickets! In Gold Reserve! Row M, to be exact. Perfect seats — we could see the stage really well. Rodriguez played the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, which is huge and — as my parents would describe it — ‘a big barn’, so these seats were really precious. Especially for last minute tickets.
Finally, we drove to the the Entertainment Centre. About 45 minutes after we first arrived through the gates (at just after 7:30 pm), the support act began her set. The support act was Jen Cloher, an Australian alt-folk muso who runs independent label Milk! Records with her partner, Courtney Barnett. I listen to a lot of alternative music and watch a music show called RocKwiz on which Cloher has been (and Milk! Records had been featured in an article in my favourite magazine, Frankie), so I had vaguely heard of her, though I assume most of the audience hadn’t. Cloher is in fact too from Adelaide (she now lives in Melbourne), and became a muso after moving to a suburb called Henley Beach when she was fourteen. Apparently she was also a major Doors fan during this period, but she also mentioned The Stones, Jimi Hendrix and a certain Liverpudlian foursome that completely and utterly changed the face of the world (hmm…we don’t know who they are, do we? 😉 ) as some of her favourite artists. I really, really enjoyed her set — almost as much as the actual gig! I liked her voice, probably ‘cos it reminded me a bit of mine — low and a bit different. And she played her acoustic-electric dead hard, which I thought was cool. I must buy some of her stuff at some point. She releases on vinyl, too, which I also think is cool.
There was half an hour between Jen Cloher and Rodriguez, so my parents and I sat ’round talking, and I may or may not have photobombed the person in front of us’s selfie, which may or may not have been found on Instagram the next morning… But then finally, the lights dimmed and Rodriguez’s band walked onstage. And I noticed something. A female bassist! It saddens me that one rarely sees female guitarists/bassists/drummers in the music industry, and as a female guitarist myself, the fact that a female bassist had been chosen for Rodriguez’s (Australian tour) band made me really happy. But not as happy as I was within a few minutes… Soon enough, the crowd went absolutely ballistic, and I could just see Rodriguez being led onstage (he now suffers from glaucoma). His management team (I assume) introduced him, and the crowd went nuts again. Rodriguez started playing a song — which I think is on his second album Coming From Reality (which I haven’t listened to in its entirety) — that I didn’t know. But I certainly knew the song he played third — ‘Only Good For Conversation’ (my favourite of his songs)! (He played ‘Crucify Your Mind’ second.) He obviously performed ‘Sugarman’ and ‘I Wonder’ (after which he said, ‘Well, I wonder — but I really don’t want to know.’), but he played so many other gems too. Other songs of his he performed included ‘Like Janis’ and ‘The Establishment Blues’, ‘Street Boy’ and ‘Forget It’, ‘I Think Of You’ and ‘Rich Folks’ Hoax’ — he even played a cover of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’! His voice sounds just as amazing as it does on record, and he played a really interesting technique of guitar. His actual instrument was interesting, too. The drummer and bassist were both fabulous, and I was particularly blown away by the dude who played lead guitar. He played an overdriven Fender the entire night (occasionally with a wah-wah pedal) and wow, was he good! He played a lead guitar line in place of the orchestrated bits on Rodriguez’s songs, which I think made the tunes sound even better than they do on record. My favourite example would have been the added solo in ‘Sugarman’. Flawlessly stunning work, in my opinion. I don’t think I stopped smiling and stomping my feet the entire night. And if I were to sum the night up in one word? Amazing. Completely, utterly, mind-blowing amazing. After about an hour of performing, Rodriguez was lead off-stage.
But there was an encore set! Rodriguez played ‘Can’t Get Away’ and some different (and better takes) of ‘Fever’ (not The Black Keys’ song!) and ‘I’m Gonna Live Till I Die’ (I usually dislike Frank Sinatra, but I liked this version very much). The crowd (including myself) all stood up and danced and sang. And then, somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 pm, my amazing night was over. It was somewhat of a difficulty actually getting out of the Entertainment Centre (and through the post-gig traffic), but it was definitely worth it. I took plenty of pictures, so here they are:
And to conclude, my experience of seeing Rodriguez live was absolutely amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my experiences that night. Thank you, Rodriguez, for providing me with a wonderful night out.
40th post! Hurrah! What a journey these past 5 months have been.. Stay tuned for a post on my favourite Beatles quotes and possibly a post on seeing A Hard Day’s Night at the cinema (only a week ’till I get to see it on the big screen!). Right now, I’m listening to the White Album. ‘Till next week, though, good day sunshine 🙂