CONCERT REVIEW: Sixto Rodriguez @ The Keswick


Life is about the journey not the destination. Last night,  Sixto Rodriguez, one the great Cinderella stories of the modern pop era, performed before a sold out house at the Keswick Theatre. Midway through his set he performed “Sugarman,” the title track to the Oscar winning documentary about  his extraordinary life story.  Superficially, it’s a song about medicating the pain of life with drugs, but ultimately it’s a song about needing to find that one thing in life that you love and enables your to not just tolerate but transcend the dismal grind of the everyday. For Rodriguez that thing is music. In the early ’70s he wrote, recorded and performed two albums worth of extraordinary songs that never found an audience. Discouraged, he left the music world behind and receded back into the twilight of obscurity from whence he came. Hands that once built songs were now put to use demolishing houses in his hometown of Detroit. Such is life: old dreams die, new ones take their place and the world keeps turning whether you like it or not. He didn’t sit around trading on past glories or lamenting what might’ve been — Rodriguez lived, he labored, he raised a family. But somehow fame snuck up on him late in life, well past its usual SELL BY date, and he learned that his music had helped tens of thousands to weather and eventually overcome the cruel state-sanctioned brutality of apartheid. That in a faraway land, the dream of pop stardom that he’d long since given up on had already come true. Despite all of this good fortune, the 70- year-old Rodriguez, like all of us, is losing the battle with time. His eyesight is almost gone and while his voice is still strong enough to make people sit up and listen, but not what it used to be. Last night he struggled to hit some of the notes during “Sugarman,” but it didn’t really matter. Every time he missed a couple of notes he strummed the guitar more fiercely, eliciting a small roar of support from the crowd. Those hands that have helped dismantle Detroit brick by brick for more than 50 years are still lightning quick and powerful. When he finished the song the crowd erupted into a standing ovation. It wasn’t just applause for that one song, rather it was an ovation for the living proof that sometimes dreams can still come true well after they have seemingly departed the realm of possibility. And if there’s still hope for the likes of Sixto Rodriguez maybe — just maybe — there’s still hope for you and me. — PETE TROSHAK

PREVIOUSLY: The Sugarman’s Second Coming

PREVIOUSLY: The Man Who Wasn’t There