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Concert Reviews:
Rodriguez fills the Crofoot with home town pride
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

PONTIAC -- It's a good bet that many of those who packed the Crofoot Ballroom on Friday night, Nov. 2, didn't know who Sixto Rodriguez was until this year's release of the documentary "Searching For Sugar Man" -- even though he lived and, occasionally, played right in their backyards.

But it's safe to say Rodriguez himself didn't care as he beamed out over the Crofoot crowd and pronounced himself "better than good" for the success of the film and the spotlight it's brought to music he recorded and released more than 40 years ago.

Rodriguez's story has charmed the world as "Searching For Sugar Man" has made its triumphant run through film festivals and art movie theaters. Proudly born on Michigan Avenue, "just three blocks from the center of the city," Rodriguez released a pair of albums in 1970 and 1971 that flew well below the radar, confining him to obscurity -- he spent most of the interim working construction in Detroit -- until fans in South Africa and Australia discovered him many years later. His homeland, and home town, took even longer to catch on, however.

But the newfound enthusiasm for the 70-year-old troubadour -- "a solid 70" he noted several times during the show -- was genuine and warm on Friday, with shouts of "We love you!" returned with an "I love you back," and an exclamation that "You're amazing!" answered with a "YOU'RE amazing." Playing solo, Rodriguez was chatty and improvisational throughout his 95-minute show, reveling in the unexpected late-life turn his career has taken and chiding the crowd for a better response by noting "they were really nice to me in Ohio" on Thursday, Nov. 1, in Columbus.

He also filled the show with a few jokes and plenty of political commentary on both a national and local scale. "I loved Detroit," he said at one point. "Then I liked Detroit. Now I understand Detroit," referencing the corruption controversies that continue to plague the city. Some of those observations, of course, could be found in songs such as "Inner City Blues" and "...The Establishment Blues," too, though the crowd favorites were clearly the pensive, cautionary "Sugar Man" and the upbeat "I Wonder," as well as surprising but confidently rendered covers of Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes," Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and fellow Detroiter Little Willie John's "Fever."

"Thanks for your time/Then you can thank me for mine," Rodriguez sang during a late-show rendition of his "Forget It," and that palpable sense of mutual appreciation made for a special and spirited homecoming for a local hero making up for lost time -- and hopefully with more to say in the near future.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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