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Live Review: Rodriguez

24 October 2014 | 11:42 am | Max Harrison

A confident Rodriguez gives Sydney an intimate performance at the Opera House.

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Without an opening act, the Sugar Man, 72-year-old Sixto Rodriguez, walked out in black, and with a smile, to the applause of the Opera House.

Touring Australia again some 40 years after his first album was released to no acclaim, this tour marks a special occasion, with a fresh breath of nostalgia felt by all those seated, and it’s hard to fathom a more humbling man for the job.

Rodriguez’ onstage persona is unassuming; he tipped his hat to his fellow musicians, and seemed to chat with them between each song before feeling for the microphone, giving the audience a chance to cry out their love for him. It felt as if we were witnessing Sixto in his living room rather than the Opera House. Rodriguez is joined on stage by Australian guitarist Brett Adams (of Tim Finn’s band), Bass player Maree Thom and reggae drummer Pete Wilkins; the musicians follow the Sugarman with respect and a watchful eye. It seemed like nobody on stage knows what he’s going to play next.

Rodriguez executed the songs with a confidence that could only be earned from having performed them for decades. The set included original Rodriguez songs from his first and second albums and a handful of covers; a rocking rendition of Lucille seemed to lighten the mood of the man in black, breaking from his protesting persona, and presenting us his love for music. The Sugar Man’s voice retained the sweet explicit tone that had previously carried the wise words to living rooms and concert halls around the world. And he still means what he said about man and government adding further that man must ‘end violence against women’. His voice is still heard.

After an 80-minute set the encore consisted of one song, I’m Gonna Live Till I Die, a Frank Sinatra classic that seemed all too fitting, but much too short. Rodriguez could never have imagined singing to so many ‘rich folk’s in an Opera House four decades ago, proving that the working-class enigma’s songs stand the test of time and support his status as an extra-‘ordinary legend’.