RODRIGUEZ at Mod Club, Thursday, October 26. Rating: NNN
Thanks to the recent documentary Searching For Sugar Man, 70-year-old Mexican-American Detroit folksinger Rodriguez (a.k.a. Sixto Diaz Rodriguez) is experiencing a comeback that can now be felt here in Canada (his two early 70s albums were little known in the U.S. at the time but became hit records in South Africa; he also became popular in Australia).
The tightly packed, sold out Mod Club crowd was testament to the fact that his story, and his music, have touched people.
As if to protect himself somewhat, Rodriguez put on a hat and sunglasses once he got on stage, and opened with The Establishment Blues off 1970's Cold Fact before introducing his side-man, local guitarist Tim Bovaconti, who he had just met at lunch that day.
Rodriguez and Bovaconti played many of the songs off Cold Fact, and a few off of Coming From Reality (1971) to a very appreciative, if overly-loud crowd. Fans knew songs like Sugar Man and I Wonder well enough to sing along, but unfortunately often over-powered the soft-spoken, smooth and gentle singer they'd come to see.
"I know my crowd," he said. "You say you love me, but it's the booze."
The hour-long set had no shortage of magic moments, but the focus was diffused somewhat when Rodriguez opted for covers from the American Songbook (Just One Of Those Things) and early rock and roll (Fever and a medley of Blue Suede Shoes and Shake, Rattle and Roll).
That said, his unpretentious bluesy grooves shone through, as he relayed his thoughts about politics and romance over a few chords hand-strummed on a nylon string guitar, and he and Bovaconti had good musical chemistry, despite their brief acquaintance.
I would love to see Rodriguez headline a summer folk festival to a quieter - but not silent - crowd.