by Maddie Casey
José González is not a household name. The Swedish-born artist of Argentinian heritage was studying to complete a degree in Biochemistry when his quiet, hauntingly melodic songs filled with guitar and vocal melodies began to catch attention of other musicians across the country. Within a matter of two years, his music was being heard across the world whether you knew it or not, and biochem was put on the backburner so he could focus on his art. Some tracks off of his first record, Veneer were featured in shows like The O.C., One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights and Bones heavily throughout 2008. The mass of new fans he’d garnered through these placements were left to assume that these quiet, introspective melodies were all we would get out of González, yet he continued to enthrall his audience by choosing to collaborate with electronic groups like Zero 7, Massive Attack and The Knife throughout 2009. He’s toured Europe and Canada on and off over the past seven years, but this past Monday we welcomed the talented José González back to Colorado for his first visit since his innagural US tour in 2008.
Joined on the road by Icelandic songstress Ólöf Arnalds, Monday’s show at The Gothic was a perfect showcase of European singer/songwriters. Arnalds’ adorable personality was complimented by her interaction with the crowd: asking for us to sing the bass line to certain songs, or “la la”ing with her during a chorus. Her Peppy soprano showcased a flawless vibrato while she sung about her friends, her children, and her homeland all in her native Icelandic tongue. A quick, 30 minute set of her playing her guitar and a lute was a great ice breaker for the unassuming audience, not entirely sure what we’d be in for once the elusive Mr. González took stage.
Touring in support of his first release since 2007, I think many (including me) were concerned that González would focus solely on his new material - a heartbreaking potential for the many who had only discovered his music since his last visit to the States. By the end of track three, González and his band has quickly calmed those nerves opening with “Stories We Build, Stories We Tell” from his February release Vestiges & Claws but then quickly dipping into fan favorite “Killing For Love” by track three. The four-piece band accompanying González on stage were a fantastic fit for the performer. A keys/percussionist player and a guitarist accompanied the singer to produce his now trademark harmonies, and both a drummer and another percussionist kept a driving beat without overpowering the all-important finger picking coming from González’s beautiful Alhambra guitar. Hearing much more fleshed out versions of familiar tracks was a welcome change to the assumed course of the evening; a full band compared to just a solo performer on stage gave new breadth to the songs that many in the audience were already very familiar with. The lighting, the accompanying instrumental pieces, the performance, and the ambiance in the room could not have been more perfect. I don’t feel like I could describe Monday’s show more accurately than by saying that it truly gave life to the music González creates. It felt as if everyone in the room was all perfectly, equally entranced in the moment together - there were no people talking and disturbing others, no one dancing too intensely, no nothing that one comes to expect from a typical concert setting. Everyone was strictly there to be in the moment and let the music take them over, making this possibly the most sublime concert experience I’ve ever had. Ending the show with the song “Leaf Off/The Cave”, the band faded into a progressively slowing chant of the chorus as the backing lights faded to black, perfectly mimicking the feeling of a summer sunset over González's mountainous backdrop.
If you’ve never taken a listen, I highly encourage you to find some candles and a pair of speakers during the next rainstorm, and just lay back and let José González’s music lead you into a musical meditation. If he ever comes back to the states, I recommend doing everything in your human ability to see him play. That show was everything a singer/songwriter performance should be - hand down one of my favorite performances of 2015 without question.