Words by: Eamon Foley
José González :: 09.29.07 :: Music Hall Of Williamsburg :: Brooklyn, NY
Perhaps better known for cover versions than his own material, Sweden's José González nonetheless entertained a sold out crowd with a set of his old and new songs at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg. The smell of newly painted walls was clear on arrival to the recently refurbished 550-capacity venue. In an era where gimmicks seem all too prevalent, González's natural, down-to-earth performance was a breath of fresh air.
| José González|
As expected, González strummed his guitar without fuss, his act a simple one lacking frills. He played, eyes closed, with ease and an air that exuded the emotion of his lyrics. Despite it being one man and his guitar for most of the show, his humble stage presence was enchanting. He obviously possesses a sense of humor but apart from a joked response to shouted requests for songs, interaction was limited.
After a handful of tunes, he was joined by two backing musicians, their voices adding a wonderful layer to González's hushed utterings. The gentle percussion (socked foot on guitar case as bass drum) and soft female vocals were the meat to González's bare-boned acoustics.
Nine microphones positioned around the stage picked up subtle foot taps and the chestnut crack of knuckle on wood but the eerie string scrapes on new album, In Our Nature (released September 24 on Mute) were largely lost. González says he is inspired by the lyrics of hardcore music, and a darker atmosphere was definitely present in tracks from his latest release.
| José González :: 09.29 :: By Andrew Spencer|
He closed his set to loud cheers with a cover of "Teardrop," his stripped down plucking bearing a similar weight and mood to Massive Attack's original, which features soft female vocals. González revels in almost opposite compositions, and his mellow, sparse take did not suffer from the comparison.
Other hits, such as his famous cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats" brought enthusiastic responses from large sections of the crowd. Although some literally jumped with joy, for the most part they were quiet and motionless, apart from the odd swaying shoulder, throughout.
His breakout album, Veneer was also featured prominently, satisfying those fans who discovered him in his wave of TV publicity, and he threw in a Kylie Minogue cover for good measure. He might be famous for being the soundtrack to a commercial but bravo to González and his minimalist skill.
JamBase | New York
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