José Gonzalez

Machester Academy on Thu 2nd Feb 2006

Maybe I’m just getting on a bit – a 30 something grumpy trousers – but the general public are starting to get on my nerves. Whilst not at the quite point of taking the Daily Mail with my breakfast and writing to Points of View, I gradually find myself more at odds with those around me, and this was emphasised at this gig.

When you have someone like José Gonzalez on stage, and indeed fragile support El Perro Del Mar, the music is everything. Neither of them interacts nor have any great stage presence and Gonzalez sits throughout practically mumbling his lyrics like a shy boy asked to speak in assembly.

So, with what you are hearing established as being absolutely paramount, this was always going to be a test for the notoriously chatty Manchester audience. They failed... miserably.

Whether it is the constant talking, or the people shouting ‘shut up’ at those talking, or those making shush noises at those shouting ‘shut up’ at the people talking, or the woman’s mobile phone ringing, or the fact that she answered it and had a conversation (“I’m at a gig” ... ”José Gonzalez”), or even the noise of Nokia cameras taking photos, there seemed to be no end to the frustrating pollution of the night’s entertainment. And I’ve not even mentioned the tall couple who moved directly in front of me and then, when I’d adjusted my position to see between their heads, proceeded to suck each others faces. Aaargh!

Gonzalez, for those that don’t know, is the man who’s ‘Heartbeats’ accompanied those multi coloured balls down the streets of San Francisco in that advert. That hit is dispensed with relatively early in the evening and there is a slight worry that so will we be, given that the excellent album ‘Veneer’ clocks in at just seconds over half an hour.

In the end, we get about an hour, but what we do hear is wonderful. Gonzalez gives a master class of acoustic guitar, fingers faster that The Waco Kid, fusing his soothing voice with Rodriguez-style guitar.

Comparisons with Nick Drake are inevitable given the minimal approach he has, but Gonzalez has his own ideas. There are three cover versions on the night, all of which were originally electronic. The aforementioned ‘Heartbeats’ is one, and Kylie Minogue’s ‘Hand on Your Heart’ is an extraordinary choice but well done.

Bravest of all though is the choice of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’, which in its original form is stunningly beautiful and seemingly uncoverable. He pretty much pulls it off though, producing an arrangement that makes the song both faithful yet his own. In fact, it’s a pity it was his last song, because, finally, he’d mesmerised even the most stubborn member of the crowd into piping down.

See him if you can, but hope for a more intimate venue.

article by: Jonathan Haggart

published: 03/02/2006 11:24

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