There was a hushed silence dominating the inside of the Bluebird Theater, and once I was properly inside I could see why.
Opening act James Blackshaw had taken the stage in all his simplicity; a 25-year-old U.K. native with shaggy light brown hair and an acoustic 12-string Guild. Blackshaw set the mood for the remainder of the evening with his intricate, classically inspired guitar playing. His set was entirely instrumental, striking in its orchestrated arpeggios and precise finger picking. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his music is that he isn’t a trained musician at all. His music is wicked and gentle, understated yet elaborate, arresting and handsome. It seems that he blends a great deal of what sounds like Spanish classical with Western and European classical elements as well and perhaps even a touch of folk music. In either case, his set was fantastic and he was very gracious and grateful to have a room full of attentive listeners; mostly girls with ga-ga eyes, no doubt imagining themselves as the only person in the room.
When Jose Gonzalez sat in his green leather chair at around 10:15pm, girls and boys alike swooned with the devotion to the Argentinean born, Swedish raised singer/songwriter. Silence ensued; it was pretty clear that everyone at this show was yearning for this set, that they had been waiting ages, like me, to finally see this guy play live. Gonzalez picked a few preliminary notes, lined up his white Keds with the mic they had placed on the floor for his foot tapping, and began to play. It was so still you could see the dust from the stage curtains swirling through the blue and red lights as he played an assortment of songs from Veneer as well as his latest album, In Our Nature.
Call me a sucker, but when Gonzalez segued into “Heartbeats,” I became teary-eyed and full of contentment and love for his music.
While Gonzalez does not stray far from the album versions of his songs, everything he played had a full, rich sound and simple beauty, even despite the Curse of the Bluebird sound system. I don’t think I have ever been to a Bluebird show where the speakers didn’t hiss and sputter with static during a show. The tragedy is when it happens during a small acoustic set like this one. In any case, he played “Lovestain,” “Hand on Your Heart,” as well as his rendition of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” which appears on the new record, and closed with a cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Gonzalez has a meekness to him, a subdued calm that comes across as some sort of magical wisdom from overseas. Despite the random A-Holes that felt it necessary to shout unnecessary song requests, it was still a magical evening of beauteous, bewitching music.