The Sydney Opera House audience travelled a winding and philosophical journey last night with Swedish troubadour Jose Gonzalez at the helm. Returning for one night to the Concert Hall stage, alone he sat, bathed by overhead spotlights and assuming a ‘Pied Piper-esque’ role. His otherworldly vocals and two classical guitars (as well, the sparse use of a drum backing track) effective instruments to call upon when transfixing his disciples.
Opener to most recent album (2015) Vestiges and Claws: ‘Ink of the Ghost’ served as the starting point for the early bracket of the show which Gonzalez referred to as songs of struggle. From here he enticed the crowd with his story-telling song lyrics, ‘Lovestain’ and ‘What Will’ the lead in to what became a masterfully crafted, nostalgia-tinged weaving through his twenty years performing: three-album anthology; covers catalogue and career highlights.
From 2010’s ‘Far Away’ written for the Red Redemption computer game, to the very first song Gonzalez admitted to learning to play: ‘Blackbird’, by The Beatles, along with a song from his other folk-indie act, Junip and an ephemerally angelic duet on stage with a talented flautist for ‘The Forest’, the softly spoken Gonzalez effortlessly built anticipation as to where he would travel next.
Mentions of Zeitgeists, references to Plato for ‘Leaf Off/The Cave’ and comments about death cults and African drumming influences ‘Afterglow’ were his conversation starters ahead of tracks providing context for listening and signalling to the breadth of inspiration that the fingerpicking, Spanish-styled guitarist drew from when composing.
The representation was balanced of songs from each of Gonzalez’ three albums. The latter half of the set including 2007 LP In our Nature’s strongest contingent: ‘Abram’, ‘Cycling Trivialities’, and a red backlit, immersive version of ‘Killing for Love’ which primed the elated crowd to receive his first encore. A blend of fragile and savoured moments offered via Veneer’s ‘Crosses’; adored cover from The Knife: ‘Heartbeats’ along with Massive Attack’s famous ‘Teardrop’.
The sweetest of the bittersweet tears presented as Gonzalez knows best, another cover this one ‘Hand on your Heart’ from Australia’s own, Kylie Minogue. Gonzalez’ paired back vocals strong in delivering “Look me in the eye and tell me we’re really through” these final lyrics whispering a heartfelt goodbye.
Photos by Prudence Upton