Given the sheer excitement and fiery acoustic guitar pyrotechnics that Rodrigo y Gabriela generated with their first two studio albums, what transpires on Live in France may not only dazzle, but astonish. Recorded in five cities during their tour supporting 11:11, this 11-song set features nine performances of cuts from that album, and a solo improvisation each. The wah-wah pedal introduced on 11:11 is plentifully present here, used most effectively by Gabriela as a powerful rhythmic element on "Hora Zero" (written for Astor Piazzolla) and as a gnarly lead instrument on "Santo Domingo" by Rodrigo (written for Michel Camilo). "Gabriela Solo" begins with an intro to Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile," and indeed serves as an intro to the duo's beautiful performance of the tune dedicated to him, "Buster Voodoo." Hearing her percussive style, where intense polyrhythms are played on the wood of the instrument as much as on the strings themselves, is a mindblower. When Gabriela kicks the wah-wah pedal on, the entire track hits stun. "Savitri" (inspired by John McLaughlin and Shakti) combines tango, flamenco, and even Indian classical themes in a slightly different arrangement than the studio version. Rodrigo's fluidity is matched modally by Gabriela's seamless rhythmic interplay; she accents the ends of his lines with the beginnings of new ones. Here too, the wah-wah pedal makes a necessary appearance -- from both guitarists. Rodrigo's lead lines in the middle eight are as hefty as they are hypnotic. The reading of "Hanuman" (dedicated to Carlos Santana) highlights -- even more so than the studio version -- the deep commitment of its subject to Afro-Cuban music in his own approach to the guitar; knotty montunos and rumbas are sharply articulated in both the front line and in the rhythmic pulse. If you already have the studio recording and wonder whether purchasing this is necessary, the answer is simply "yes." The spontaneity, improvisation, and interaction between the audience and Rodrigo y Gabriela make Live in France a musical document that exists on an entirely different level than its studio companion.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek