The weather in the Denver area has felt more like Amsterdam or Seattle recently, and Sunday night was no different for the highly anticipated Red Rocks Amphitheatre return of Rodrigo y Gabriela. At times it was hard to tell if the crowd was hollering in awe of the group’s amazing music or for the intermittent lightning strikes in the distance, but guitarist Gabriela Quintero considered the mighty sounds of nature to instead be applauding the thunderous sound she and bandmate
Rodrigo Sánchez were making.

“The gods like it!” She exclaimed at one point, smiling and flashing her customary devil-horn salute.

Just after 8 p.m., the duo—which has been making music together for over 20 years and known each other since they were teenagers in Mexico—took the big Red Rocks stage as a raging Tool song ended, and played behind screens flanking four-time Grammy-winning drummer Antonio Sánchez. The acclaimed drummer, composer, and producer channeled Danny Carey as he blazed between Rodrigo y Gabriela, who appeared to be floating with the help of stunning visual effects, not to mention a jubilant stage presence.

“It’s cool that they’re not just playing,” my 13-year-old daughter leaned in and said to me at one point. “They’re, like, having fun.”

Rodrigo broke way out of any pigeonholed expectations immediately, slaying on electric guitar as he did throughout the two-hour set, which saw the duo traverse about a dozen stage setups and numerous genres—rock, flamenco, punk, metal, classical, pop, and all kinds of Latin flavor—while inviting Sánchez out on drums a handful of times.

Quintero slyly acknowledged it was her birthday early on, quipping “Happy birthday to everyone else whose birthday it is,” while explaining, and celebrating, the group’s new album, In Between Thoughts…A New World, calling it “a complete narrative we’re very proud of.”

The new song “Egoland”, in particular, exhilarated the Red Rocks crowd, deftly juxtaposing Rodrigo y Gabriela’s unique, fun approach to Latin music with a Western twinge straight out of Ennio Morricone’s playbook, and a haunting hook that would make Rammstein proud.

Other In Between Thoughts songs bounced off the rocks like themes to exciting video games, but the band also impressed with its ability to bring the energy and mood to diverse places. The band bounced around dissonant dispositions from moving the crowd to dance with classic acoustic-guitar crowd-pleasers near the end and rocking out arena-metal style with Sánchez on drums to treating us to an intricate, percussive, and virtuosic extended guitar solo by the smiling Quintero.

The duo notoriously loves and is highly influenced by Metallica, but this was really riding the lightning.

“Let’s pray to the Aztec gods for the rain to stop,” Quintero told the crowd. “We have a gig to do tonight.”

And it did, as she joyously fluctuated between headbanging across the stage and sitting next to Rodrigo, both of them clad in all white, with black boots. Their Mexican acoustic metal, as it might be called, is at its best enthralling and cinematic, and honestly doesn’t need any light shows or other visuals to entrance audiences.

One of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s legendary concerts—along with playing at the White House for Barack Obama in 2010—was their 2014 Red Rocks show that featured a Metallica medley with Robert Trujillo on bass; Sunday night featured no Metallica covers, but I’d take Rodrigo’s incredible, cloud-opening pedal-steel solo for any cover song one could think of.

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s tour continues on Tuesday in St. Paul, MN. For tickets and a full list of tour dates visit the duo’s website.