Forty two years after the release of his unappreciated masterpiece Cold Fact, Sixto Rodriguez finally arrived in Columbia, MO last weekend on Friday September 21st. The Detroit based singer-songwriter performed for thousands in Peace Park as part of the 6th Annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, which also featured performances by Marty Stuart, John Mayal, Al Green, and dozens more.
The strange and wonderful story of Rodriguez’s resurrection is the subject of Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary Searching for Sugar Man (T/F 2012). It will be playing at our sister theater Ragtag Cinema for another week. It’s hero, South African fan Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, still operates the official Rodriguez website at Sugarman.org. You can listen film’s official soundtrack on Spotify.
Last Friday’s set was divided in two. Rodriguez took the stage backed by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, allowing him to perform full, soaring compositions of songs like “Sugar Man” and “Crucify Your Mind”. The second half featured Rodriguez onstage alone with his guitar. This section mixed a healthy dose of covers, such as the Little Willie John Blues classic “Fever”, with stripped down renditions of Rodriguez’s original material, like the always moving “I Think of You”.
Rodriguez’s lyrics have the effortless complexity of all great poetry, and his music feels imminently relevant in its personal and political resonance, despite being written decades ago. Between songs, Sixto appeared on stage much as he does in Sugar Man: sincere, decent, and unassuming. He kidded around with the audience, telling stories and silly jokes, always with a smile. “Want to know the secret of life?” he asked the audience early on. “All you got to do is keep breathing in and breathing out.”