Read: Jose Gonzalez @ the Paradise, 4/11/15 – A Springtime Pick-Me-Up

Jose Gonzalez, Paradise Rock Club, 4/11/15

Jose Gonzalez, Paradise Rock Club, 4/11/15, photo courtesy Tim Cahill

In 2006 a good friend of mine sent me a television commercial. At the time, I didn’t know WHY my good friend was sending me a random television commercial. Television commercials were not something I got overly ecstatic about. Growing up, I was not incessantly talking about television commercials and declaring my fascination with them.

As it turns out, this television commercial caught me hook, line and sinker. It was unassuming, simple and touching. What stood out the most for me (and my friend, her SOLE purpose of sending in the first place) was the MUSIC. The music was what truly MADE that commercial so touching and sentimental. That music was Jose Gonzalez, covering The Knife’s “Heartbeats”, the song that put him on the map. I remember writing a note to myself to remember his name. As for the commercial, I can’t remember what if was for? I think it an advertisement for TVs? Or bouncy balls? I’m not sure.

Jose Gonzalez played The Paradise Rock Club in Brighton on Saturday April 11th and was wonderful. Gonzalez is a casual and calculated performer with a gifted finger-picking style, a beautiful nylon stringed guitar and voice that sounds like he (and his mind) come from a calmer world (Sweden). He is also self-contradicting performer. He has a woodland whisper that asks aggressive, BIG questions, he arranges sparse songs that sound complex and he & his band performed complex songs that sounded beautifully austere.

Rhythm is at the heart of Gonzalez’s’ live show and this shined through on many of his songs. Nick Drake and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young also come to mind regarding Gonzalez’s vocal approach, his guitar melodies. It was noteworthy that his deep, full nylon stringed guitar seemed to dictate where he and his band went musically. Vocal harmonies were provided by his backing band of 4, a band of musicians who floated in and out of instruments, rhythms & melodies the same way you & I walk to the subway, naturally, effortlessly and without thought.

Highlights of the night included the inquisitive “Stories We Build, Stories We Tell”, a fleshed out “Killing for Love”, a great cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Hand on Your Heart”, the new “What Will” – a song that changed rhythm many times and lyrically reminded me of a 1960s folk song (“Vestiges and claws / Fight for a common cause / Free your mind / To leave dogma behind”). A tight cover of Arthur Russell’s “This is How We Walk on the Moon”, and the one performance that shot a sentimental arrow through my heart was “Cycling Trivialities”. On all fronts this was the best of the night (to me) – the music matched the lyrics, which matched the rhythms, which matched the current moment in time – it was beautiful, lyrically, melodically, and temporally. Gonzalez closed out the set with an encore of the new “Leaf Off / The Cave”.

Gonzalez is constantly thinking, reflecting and then expressing his findings on the fragility and greatness of life. He has cornered the niche as a performer with a beautifully calm, confident & inquisitive disposition that asks his listeners THE BIG QUESTIONS on life. He has established a congruent relationship between his mind, his lyrics, and his guitar AND his vocal delivery. All four of these are beautifully in sync – this is something a performer and artist strives for their entire life – finding that magic combination, that well-tempered balance. I recommend picking up his latest album “Vestiges & Claws”, and definitely recommend seeing him live in concert.