Fifty years ago, Rodriguez played dingy “hooker bars, motorcycle funerals” with his back turned. Tonight, he feels for what is around him and touches out in front for the mic. Although Rodriguez is losing his eyesight, his voice remains a mythological giant to his story of discovery.
RODRIGUEZ Live @ QPAC – Friday 11th November, 2016
For Street Press Australia [VIEW HERE]
Words by Rip Nicholson
Archie Roach warms with an embracing command; inside the Lyric Theatre, his word is a most effective telling of hardships endured. Opening on his new album Let Love Rule, he takes us to Nice, France, just after the Bastille Day tragedy last year to set up It’s Not Too Late to assure the next generation of hope. There is hardly a dry eye in his company when he retires on Mighty Clarence River.
In a most unassuming fashion, fitting to his career, Rodriguez is escorted to centre stage unrecognised and unapplauded until he reaches his stool. Almost the entire Cold Fact and Coming From Reality catalogue is visited, the band amused by taking impromptu cues from Rodriguez’ opening cords. This all makes for an endearing evening, his charm as soothed as ever. When a woman yells, “I grew up on you,” he retorts shyly, “You haven’t changed a bit.” After a request for I Wonder is broadcast, he obliges, saying, “I wonder but I don’t really want to know.” He then follows up with Sugar Man, as if unaware of the record’s mammoth pull. Baited breath exhales in resounding cheers. At the end he disclaims, “this is a descriptive song not a prescriptive song… Get high from hugs, not drugs.”
Covers of Jim Morrison’s Light My Fire and the Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction illuminate the stage and a groove in which the legend finds himself immersed. Rodriguez’ hat game plays out through his show, swapping out his black beanie for black wide-brimmed hat for half the set before the white fedora for Sugar Man. For a man regarded as having a political lean, his only remark comes in the jubilation of California passing the legalisation of weed, to great applause.
He rides out to I Think Of You and Forgive Me, thanking us for our time. The audience, putty in his presence, pauses in realisation that it is we who are blessed. If the standing ovation he received was missed, the ongoing cheers carrying him right offstage wasn’t. Upon return, he encored Cold Fact, Queen’s Somebody to Love and Peggy Lee’s version of Fever. For his frailty at 70 and humbled presence, Rodriguez remains the sweetheart of songwriting purity, delivering in less than 90 minutes an incredibly tear-jerking performance.