“I want everyone here tonight to know I want to be treated like an ordinary legend,” Sixto Rodriguez told a beaming crowd on Saturday night at the Granada Theatre. If anyone else had made such a remark, the salt-and-peppered fans might have been taken aback. But Rodriguez has earned the right to boast such a fine oxymoron.
As the audience certainly knew, Rodriguez spent four decades largely undiscovered in the United States while pirated copies of his 1970s albums Cold Fact and Coming from Reality soared off the shelves in South Africa and Australia. But his fans thought the politically alive rocker was dead; he had no idea of his foreign success. In fact, he was working in construction in Detroit to support his three daughters. Five years ago, the documentary Searching for Sugar Man unveiled his story, and he has been touring the world since.
Saturday was his first stop in Santa Barbara. Rodriguez was escorted onstage by a friend; he is losing his eyesight because he suffers from glaucoma. “I’m a solid 74,” he joked. “I’ve been doing this since I was 60.” He played his signature songs — the politically charged “Dead End Street,” the timeless “Crucify Your Mind,” and the sexually cutting “I Wonder,” adding, “I wonder, but I really don’t want to know.” He also weaved in Elton John’s “Your Song” and the Doors’ “Light My Fire.”
Longhaired and low-key, Rodriguez took his time fiddling with his guitar. “We hear you’re worth waiting for!” one man cheered. “You’re an easy crowd, you know,” Rodriguez said with an understated tone. His body might be worn but his voice is smooth, and he shared random musings throughout the evening. “Many of us come into the world with a clenched fist,” he said, “but we all leave with an open hand.”