“Be soft in your anger,” Rodriguez suggests gently to an older, early evening crowd at The Park stage. As the sun loses its battle to cloud and ambles towards the horizon, the 70 year old musical enigma still retains his mysterious air, dressed in all black, hunched over from decades of manual labour.
Many already know his tale from the Searching For Sugar Man documentary released last year and a breezy cheer goes up for ‘I Wonder‘, the bassline jiggling in the wind.
It’s a set that uplifts with its messages as it fills the natural auditorium of The Park with a sense of timelessness, a beautiful ode to an era when songs were still used for protest and lyrics were soaked in experience and poetry.
There are touches of Richie Havens in the acoustics, a little of the Bob Dylan mumble in the delivery, but it’s all resounding Rodriguez, gruff notes and all.
‘Sugar Man‘ bends with psychedelic guitars at a pace just above a welcome slumber, while a cover of Little Richard‘s ‘Lucille‘, with its double kick drums and tinkling piano, adds a sense if fun from the heavier topics of drug use and bad love.
There is also a vocal-stretching rework of ‘Unchained Melody‘ by the Righteous Brothers that’s rough around the edges, but it doesn’t come off as blissful as a tender rendition of ‘Forget It‘.
It’s humbling show that has no pretence and no pre-meditated tricks, just heavy heart folk from a songwriter that shouldn’t have fallen through the cracks.
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