Friday, May 10, 2013

Rodriguez thrills Tampa crowd with his presence.

   On Thursday, Tampa audiences got their first chance to see Rodriguez, who shot to stardom last year when the Oscar-winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man" detailed his life and career.
   The story is that he released a couple of albums in the early '70s that tanked, so he gave up music and returned to blue-collar life in Detroit. But then it turned out he was revered in South Africa. He didn't know, and people there thought he had died.
   People in the capacity crowd in Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Center in Tampa -- including a healthy contingent of South Africans --  shouted "We love you!" and "You're amazing!" between songs and applauded when he repeated the same phrases back.
   It seemed obvious they were responding to the man they knew from the movie more than to the actual concert and the music. Rodriguez writes very good songs, folk-based but with a jazz edge, and an extremely pleasant voice. But his show was extremely low-key (he's going blind, and had to be led to the microphone, so he didn't move much), and his stage banter consisted of VERY old jokes (two cannibals are eating a clown and one says, "does this taste funny to you?") and unexceptional aphorisms ("free love is too expensive," "hate is too strong an emotion to waste on someone you don't like"). His three-piece backing band was professional but unexceptional.
   Still, his performance and his stage persona were extremely appealing during his own songs. Covers (Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things," Little Richard's "Lucille") didn't fare as well.
   Whether you've seen the movie or not, there's something about the 70-something Rodriguez on stage that makes you cheer for him. That the actual music wasn't electrifying didn't matter; Rodriguez himself
electrified the crowd. They came to be in the presence of the Sugar Man. His wry smile, and his kindly, almost shy, demeanor were enough to enthrall them. Good music was a bonus.

No comments: