Last Night: Jose Gonzalez @ OCPAC

Last Night: Jose Gonzalez at the Orange County Performing Art Center's Samueli Theater on September 25, 2008.

Better Than: Shopping at IKEA.

Download: "Killing For Love" video from the Jose Gonzalez website

The "Off-Center" concert series at the Samueli Theater closed out their concert season with the quiet ballads of Swedish born Jose Gonzalez. It was a fitting choice as the first show of the year was Peter, Bjorn & John who also hail from Sweden.

Richard Swift kicked off the evening with his sunny California inspired pop tunes infused with a dose of soul. The highly prolific songwriter was impressive as he alternated between piano and guitar. "Lady Luck" had Richard digging deep for his falsetto vocals. Richard would switch gears for "The Bully" which bordered on doo-wop. A stirring piano riff of "The Atlantic Ocean" gave the audience a sneak peak at his next album. Richard will be embarking on a few dates opening for Stereolab in October.

A troubadour in the true sense of the word, Jose Gonzalez was impressive. No fancy guitar pedals or drum machines. It was just Jose and his nylon stringed guitar for a good portion of the show. The silence in the crowd throughout the night was only broken by the rapturous applause from the loyal Jose Gonzalez fans in between the songs.

Jose is supporting his new album "In Our Nature" which is fingerpicking good. Jose was furiously tapping his foot as he plucked out bass notes with his thumb to carry the rhythm while his other four fingers climbed up and down the rest of his strings. "Fold" quickly entranced the audience with its lullaby appeal.

A few musicians would later join Jose on stage for the title track off the new album as they added vocal harmonies and some light bongo percussion. Jose explained "The Nest" as a children's story for grown ups that garnered some laughs from the appreciative audience. "Bloodstain" was the crowd participation moment of the set as everyone clapped along. "Down The Line" was markedly sped up in tempo as the bongos provoked some dancing in the back of the audience. Jose ventured back to his first album "Veneer" for a solid solo rendition of "Deadweight On The Velveteen".

A slew of requests from the audience were shouted out when Jose came back for an encore. "Heartbeats" was the most vocal request and Jose was happy to oblige. Originally a song by the Swedish electronic duo The Knife, Jose transformed pulsating dance song into a beautiful love ballad that sends shivers down your spine.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I like a lot of Swedish bands such as The Hives, Meshuggah and The Knife.

Random Detail: The Hives were on Jay Leno when I got home.

By The Way: I was dying to hear Jose's cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" but still was happy to hear "Heartbeats".


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