There’s a sense of anticipation surrounding Swedish indie darling Jose Gonzalez’s Perth gig at Chevron Gardens tonight equal only in size to that of the release of his current critically-acclaimed album Vestiges and Claws last year, a whole nine years since 2007’s hauntingly beautiful In Our Nature. It’s a considerable gap, but the album delivers on the anticipation, the culmination of nearly a decade of what seems to have been a process of painstaking exploration for Gonzalez, musically and emotionally.
And it was these songs from Vestiges and Claws that made up the majority of the set list on a balmy summer’s evening at Elizabeth Quay – Perth’s new festival hotspot – many of them illustrating Gonzalez’s conscientious thought process at work, the musician pondering life’s ultimate questions: Why are we here? What is it all about? How do I situate myself within the universe?
If all of this introspection seems a bit heavy for a Friday night when all you want to do is relax and knock back a few pints with friends, don’t fear. While the questions Gonzalez poses might be more on the “work-related” side, his glorious melodies delivered in those famously dulcet tones will take you right back to the weekend, the Swede’s Argentinean roots apparent as he strums away at his guitar–Spanish-style.
While the night got off to a start with “Crosses” from Gonzalez’s first studio album Veneer, the musician then focused mostly on songs from his new album which signals a return to Gonzalez’s folksy roots, while also featuring some of the more progressive and innovative leaps he took in side project Junip, (his indie folk rock counterpart who released an album in 2010). Songs like “Leaf Off/The Cave,” “What Will” and “Let It Carry You” were all a big treat with an audience who has obviously embraced this new album with the same kind of devotion that they did his earlier ones. But there was a lot for fans there from the very beginning to love, as well, like his cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” (arguably his most famous tune – and for good reason, it remains as beautiful now as the first time I heard it) and a cover of Kylie Minogue’s 1989 hit “Hand On Your Heart.”
Gonzalez consistently produces surprising and profoundly original work, and his live performance is equally enigmatic. He is not at all showy (no overly witty banter here) which might be a problem for those who came to get that bit of insight into an artist that one often gets at live performances, but the stripped back music that he writes and performs doesn’t need to be delivered with any fuss. Like the man and the music, it’s mysterious, often leaving you with more questions than answers.
It was a short gig, one of the shortest I’ve been to at just over an hour (a bit of a disappointment considering parking anywhere within a walking distance of Elizabeth Quay is an arduous and expensive endeavor on the weekend), but he packed in a whole lot in the time that he had, including a gorgeous cover of Massive Attack’s “Heartbeats” close to the end of the gig. While Gonzalez might not be able to offer any answers to those great existential questions he poses at the outset of “Vestiges and Claws,” it’s still a beautiful journey, and well worth the ride.
Chevron Festival Gardens presents
Venue: Chevron Festival Gardens
Date: 12 February 2016
Tickets: $58 – $65
Part of the 2016 Perth International Arts Festival