Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We'll cast some light and it'll be alright

Jose Gonzalez and The Gothenburg String Theory - Barbican Centre, April 11th 2011
Years ago Meg sent me a Jose Gonzalez song called Crosses and I've liked him ever since. Veneer was my default 'quiet' album for years, so I'm not sure why I didn't manage to make it to his solo shows in Sydney a few years ago. My favourite work of his is the E.P. he put out with his band Junip back in 2005. What makes Gonzalez special is his voice, and I thought it was at it's best with a full band backing him, and when covering Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad. I was lucky enough to catch Junip in Melbourne at the beginning of the year. What struck me most about the show was the vocals. There's this smooth, alien quality to his voice that I always thought was at least partially the mixing process. Something that was at least partially fabricated during the album's production. Gonzalez took to the mic, and the voice that came out had the exact same unearthly sound, but with added depth and texture. I'm amazed that the sound can come naturally out of a human being.
Fast forward a few months and I find that he's playing a solo show in London accompanied by the Gothenburg String Theory, a 20 piece orchestra. I struggle to put into words what the show was like. I would never use the terms epic to describe Gonzalez's solo work. Sparse, yes. Understated, definitely. The original arrangements went out the window and his work was turned into this immense and complex mountain of sound. Towards the end of the night the musicians launched into Teardrop (a Massive Attack cover). Both the original and Gonzalez's recorded version are gentle, ethereal songs. The orchestra provided the constant, slow beat and it began the way the audience was accustomed to, but it built and built. I can't recall ever seeing a mid-set standing ovation at a seated concert, but the power of the sound in the last 2 bars made me physically shake, and the crowd responded by getting to their feet.
I left with that buzz that happens when you know you've see something truly special. I can only compare it to Came So Far For Beauty,  (a Leonard Cohen tribute at the Sydney Opera House) and the first time I saw Brand New at the UNSW Roundhouse. It was the only U.K. date on the 3 week tour. I hope that one of the nights is recorded because these alternative versions need to be heard.

The audio quality of this recording really doesn't do it justice, but it'll give you an idea.


  1. Very nice - I've always wanted to see Jose. You forgot the awesomeness of fleet foxes that time... :) Miss you xo

  2. I forgot about that. It definitely felt like that time we saw Fleet Foxes in Melbourne. Miss you too. XO

  3. I'm listening to Veneer on Grooveshark right now. Doesn't sound too bad at all.

  4. I thought it would be a bit mellow for your tastes.

  5. Tim and i hate you. That is all.