For 70-year-old Rodriguez, South Africa must be the fountain of youth.
After underwhelming sales from his first two albums stateside in the early 1970s and a mysterious nosedive into musical hibernation, Sixto Rodriguez is a new man, or at least a popular man now. Thanks in large part to a steadfast African fanbase who views him as a national paragon, Rodriguez has turned a 40-year career into an overnight sensation. At the 1stBank Center in Broomfield Tuesday night, the star of the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching For Sugar Man” even jokingly mused, “I want to be treated like an ordinary legend.”
Opening with “Climb Up On My Music” from 1972’s album “Coming From Reality,” Rodriguez was greeted with a hero’s embrace from a diverse, generation-spanning crowd. Followed by the riff-heavy “Only Good For Conversation” and dreamy Croce-inspired “I Wonder” off the now immortalized “Cold Fact,” he seized the moment with his knack for witty lyrics and lush vocals.
With no new music to test out, Rodriguez then added renditions of Cole Porter’s “Just One Of Those Things” and Little Richard’s “Lucille” to his catalog — with mixed results. It seemed that after waiting decades to hear him live, most diehard fans just wanted the solid goods. “Sugar Man,” the night’s preeminent gem, was raw, unapologetic, and ageless — and Rodriguez was quick to warn that the song’s drug-laced lyrics were merely “descriptive, not prescriptive.” “Rich Folks Hoax” and “Forget It” were equally flawless steeped in a ’70s flashback motif with a scripture of dissent at their core.
For the improbable encore, the nearly blind Rodriguez was guided back out on stage for a cover of “Like A Rolling Stone.” It was a fitting bookend for a man who, unlike Dylan, is taking refuge in his newfound fame rather than hiding from it.
Kris K. Coe is a freelance writer, Denver-native, and regular contributor to Reverb.