Last week, Rodriguez, the phoenix-like Mexican-American folksinger, inaugurated the re-opening of the North Park Theatre with two sold-out nights.
One of the theater's owners, David Cohen, said Rodriguez was a natural choice to headline the debut of his newly renovated concert venue because his story is a remarkable message. A majority of attendees were lifelong fans with South African origins, which is not too surprising, considering that the '60s singer was a polarizing figure in their native country.
Rodriguez's album Cold Fact went platinum in South Africa and Australia, unbeknownst to the performer (and his wallet), who quit music and ended up working as a day laborer in Detroit. After 40 long years, though, Rodriguez is finally reaping the rewards of his powerful songs, thanks to the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man. Rodriguez is now a certified music celebrity in his own country, and has embarked on a worldwide tour.
Almost two years ago, Rodriguez played a sold-out acoustic set at the Casbah. It was a sight to behold: There were groupies gasping for him. This year, Rodriguez returned with a full band of hand-picked young musicians from the U.K. and New Zealand.
Rodriguez opened the set with "Climb Up on My Music." For a folk music set, it was a lively crowd, with 1,156 Rodriguez fans on hand. The theater's seating arrangements boded well for the audience, with the front row consisting of 56 seats for VIP ticket holders, and the rest of the floor on their feet.
The Kolls, a South African mother, father and two adult sons attended the concert. In a conversation after the show, they stood in agreement that Rodriguez was better than Bob Dylan, with the parents describing how Rodriguez raised the consciousness of their country on the other side of the globe. For one of the sons, attending the concert was like traveling in a time machine.
"It was like like watching my parents as teenage concert-goers -- I even took a picture of it," said Charles Koll, one of the sons.
Marie Louise Perkett, the co-owner of a South African fusion restaurant in Cape Town, beamed with joy to have finally seen Rodriguez after listening to him for so many years back in South Africa.
"He's so natural -- the poetry of his music is so important," Perkett said.
It was their third Rodriguez concert for one 20-something Mexican-American couple. The first show was at the Casbah (they were visible in the front row on the episode of SoundDiego featuring Rodriguez). Then they saw him at Coachella. Kevin Nostrates, 29, said that the North Park Theatre appearance was the best Rodriguez performance he had seen, mainly due to Rodriguez's chemistry with his band.
Nostrates discovered Sugar Man through a Paste magazine article and fell in love with Cold Fact. In 2008, when he got the chance to be a Coup d'Etat guest DJ on FM 94/9, Nostrates had Rodriguez's "Rich Man's Hoax" ready to play, adding that he may have been the first to rock Rodriguez music on San Diego radio. During the radio show, he even schooled listeners to cool factoids like: Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks" was influenced by "Rich Man's Hoax."
During the North Park Theatre show, the self-described "musico-politico" shared nuggets of personal history and wisdom. To his largely South African audience he says, “I'm from the mainland. Both my parents are Mexican. My Mexican peoples are indigenous people. We didn't come on a boat."
Rodriguez's butter-smooth voice and conscious lyrics gives the listener something to ponder, absent of any arrogance. There was no preaching. It was simply music for the people.
"I use the protest song as a means to describe our issues," the folksinger told the crowd.
Stay tuned to NBC 7's SoundDiego this weekend for exclusive concert coverage of Rodriguez at the North Park Theatre.
Dita Quinones is a multimedia journalist born in Tijuana with a passion for Latin alternative and hip-hop music news. Her main goal is to uplift and inform so that the Latino, Filipino and hip-hop communities are knitted into the fabric of American history. In addition to SoundDiego, she contributes to Latina, Fox News Latino, Poder, VidaVibrante, San Diego CityBeat and HipHopDx. She is also the founder of the infamous music and politrix blog GN$F! Follow Dita on Twitter or on Facebook.