gig review: José González

I am stupid behind my usual deadline with this gig review on José González – I usually get it done the morning after the gig. By the way, he was stunning, love love love. But I took a critic perspective with this review. I paid for my ticket, but have since signed on as a contributor for at FasterLouder (about freakin’ time, I know). Hopefully it’ll pass through the editors.. *twiddles thumbs*

I still have a Daft Punk review I’ve been meaning to finish, but let’s face it – how the fuck do you put the Daft Punk experience into words? I was hoping to pitch it Rolling Stone, who’ve since gotten a new editor – HURRAH! No more being freakishly terrified of Simon Wooldridge =D


José González @ Enmore Theatre, 29.12.07
Support: Emily Barker

José González really loves Australia. His recent Enmore gig was his fourth visit to our sweltering shores in just under as many years. Commanding a quietly formidable presence at Newtown’s Enmore Theatre, the artist riffled through his library of finger-plucking tracks with requisite covers thrown into the mix. Indeed there is just something about the Enmore Theatre that keeps musos coming back, and González was no exception, transforming the at times vast space into an intimate mute-lit lounge.

Support Emily Barker turned over a pleasing set with her folk-slash-alternate-country melodies. Dixie Chicks comparisons aside, she found her place between a melancholic Sarah McLachlan and the trace of Stevie Nicks. Indeed, one might even find the strength and clarity of Martha Wainwright if listened hard enough. Barker’s voice is quite an aural gem to behold, as she attracted some appreciative applause from the small crowd who bothered to turn up early.

A rather long 45-minute wait finally saw the Argentinean-cum-Swede stroll onto the stage with his rapidly expanding afro and mo’. A hush descended the murmuring crowd as he opened the show with a powerful rendition of Hints. Fingers moved across the strings like water, hypnotising to those lucky few at the front as we were treated to a humbling instrumental number before crowd pleaser Heartbeats took the show to the first of many highlights of the night.

Percussionist Erik Bodin and back-up vocalist Yukimi Nagamo joined him on stage for Stay In The Shade, before the crowd threw adoration at a less-than-perfect In Our Nature. Indeed, while the song-writing from the In Our Nature record is a lot more adventurous, its surety was not as easily obtained when translated to a live performance. Interspersing a lukewarm Time To Send Someone Away with a haunting rendition of Lovestain merely served to point out exactly in what made Veneer so exquisite. The atmosphere of this song brought the show to a soaring crescendo as we were treated to a more bitter side to the otherwise quiet González. Soonafter, Remain took this fever to a higher octave before a simmering and almost groovy Down The Line.

A change possibly spurred by his growing popularity, the venue was divided into two dancefloors, a move that did little to benefit González’s otherwise mesmerising performance. The presence that he drove on stage is one of drawn out subtlety and climactic in its execution, an impact lost on some of his newer fans. It seemed that the simplicity of his songs found many punters shuffling from sore lower backs, and made the theatre appear cavernous at times. A shame to be sure considering the lush melodies mused with his soft vocal tones; he spent much of the night hunched over his classical guitar, the odd ‘thank you’ thrown to the crowd here and there in between his aurally pleasing twangs and picks.

With such a lack of showmanship, you become acutely aware González’ complacency with his growing popularity and perchance for the stunning covers he puts in place of his otherwise excellent song-writing, which is on par with the likes of Elliot Smith and of course, Nick Drake. The encore proved such brilliance with Deadweight on Velveteen and Crosses before a lack-lustre Abram from his second album. The softly melancholic Kylie Minogue cover aside, it was apparent that the night belonged to one song. A devastating Teardrop closed the night, building to a commanding high, at once breathtaking and true.

A night with José González is one well-spent indeed, especially for a reviewer who’d paid to see him twice before. Despite a slow rise in popularity with the second offering, the songs were supported by his solid efforts with Veneer many of which proved to be the favourites amongst the crowd. The performance was an enlightening end to the year, though it would be a crying shame if he became defined by the covers that he so ingeniously produces.


…and by that I mean The Cure variety, not the Shawn Mullins kind (although, catchy song). No I am not a self-proclaimed emo, and please do not stir me into some form of justification that will be thinly disguised as non-sensical rambling. For your information Robert Smith is a musician, and not all musicians angst away with their borrowed guitars.

I have decided that my writing does not possess a voice. It is the type of prose which attempts to carve its own path of distinction, of originality and ‘flair’ (frackin’ wanky assessment criteria), yet ends up in a spluttering heap of stolen expressions, feeble emulations and spluttering impressions of all writers I’ve idolised and loved.

Which I think is part of the reason why I find myself sifting through the photos of said writers (or rather, just the one) via their Facebook profiles like a voyeur of sorts; peering into the unknown world, which on the outskirts seems to mirror my own and yet beneath the surface, scratches the realities of a different world. Different, not wrong.

I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I look at his pictures (ooh ahh, it’s a he!), see the remnants of his childhood upbringings laced in Chinese tradition, visible in the Poloroid-imbued faces of his family. I study his siblings, whom are no doubt equally intelligent, articulate, and perhaps more perceptive than he is. It amazes me how much human beings can accomplish when forcefully removed from their immediate surroundings. Coerced into making a new life, and for this particular one, making the choice of pursuing the arts world in order to discover the perfect way to express himself and find truth. To quote Flaubert: ‘Of all lies, art is the least untrue’.

But of course, I am making presumptions. And I am neck-deep in airy fairy post-modern wank (damn stream-of-consciousness prose!) as a result of my insomnia, so I will try to get to the point.

The question, I suppose, is: how much do you need to be a writer? How much time, how much emotion, euphoria, determination, creativity (if any at all), focused observation without lacking the ability to think broadly, criticism, and most importantly, how much life do you need? What makes a writer? What makes the self-indulgent art that they immerse themselves in so important to others? And is it truly self-indulgent? Do writers scramble for their audience’s approval? Do expressionists?

Obviously these are all questions I should be answering myself, but I am in a thick state mind now (yes, have dense head), so I shall settle for pondering.

Other news:
– Met the lead singer Kele of Bloc Party. Photo, signed ticket stub, and evidence of a so-ecstatic-I-feel-trippy moi is accessible via my Facebook photos. Have now concluded that myself and my close-knit gig posse are all connected to Kele. Me and another friend met him, one hugged him right before she was pushed out from the front of the barrier at Splendour In The Grass, and the other saw him on a Sydney Bus. It’s fate!
– Also saw The Cure about a fortnight ago: came out of the Sydney Entertainment Centre deaf for four days a.k.a. titinnus freak out and it is a SHIT venue. But worry not – my ears are still good!
Masters in Media Practice is 70% international students from China which has me seriously pondering the usefulness of a degree to such students (journalism does not exist in China full stop, bold, underlined, capitals, neon flashing lights, spruiker), as well as my own usefulness.
Arctic Monkeys are still serious GOLD.
– Have started my Girlfriend internship. Am now a gung-ho online content producer for the next year or so (for one day a week! It was initially a three week trial, but I must’ve done something astounding because I am now signed on for the next 365 days. JOY!! Ooh sexy CV, uh-huh)
– 21st Birthdays have become frighteningly abundant. Am now engrossed in my own multi-paged (and multi-dimensional) proposal for my pending 21st shindig
– Never underestimate the power of multiple half hours indulging in productive time consumption via Dictionary.Com and Thesaurus.Com.
Dawson’s Creek is gold for expanding vocabulary

i refuse to procrastinate…

…by writing a blog for the first time in over 45 days. Perhaps more, perhaps less. My calculations are off.

I’ve logged into Facebook for the umpteenth time and nothing has changed and I seriously cannot be screwed wall-whoring anyone at this point in time.

I am functioning on about two and half hours of sleep. I went to bed at 5AM this morning finishing a 3000 word draft for my Crime Fiction class where my tutor has a decidedly stupid vendetta against me.

Right now I am working on my 1500 word travel piece for Creative Non Fiction. It is due Wednesday afternoon which is in about 36 hours. I am also meant to be working on my International Communication essay which aspires to be 3000 words in length and of a Credit variety. Obviously this will not happen. I am completely fucked.

Which is why I’ve begun YouTubing Teeny Little Super Guy and Rove’s interview with Elmo, along with Gumby. I have spent countless hours on Wikipedia researching the British Monarchy via Elizabeth I, the French Monarchy via Marie Antoinette, and tomorrow night I may move onto the Russian Monarchy via Tsar Nicholas II before it fell to revolution in 1917. Not to mention countless games of online Monopoly with the only other insomniac I know…

Some updates (apologies for being a self-indulgent turd whose prose has completely died in the arse):

– I’ve discovered the brilliance of Dappled Cities Fly
– I’m applying for Masters in Media Practice at the University of Sydney for their semester two intake because I’ve suddenly realised that I do not want to leave university just yet, and the idea of being 21 with a Masters degree pleases me very much
– I did a four week internship at Rolling Stone Australia and made rad friends with my deputy editor. God damn, it looks splendourific on my CV
– Am still yet to kick the habit of leaving things til the absolute last minute, right now being a prime example. I have to get up for work in about 4 hours and here I am typing out a conglomerate of thoughts
– I became addicted to Scrubs
– I fell in love with Ethan Hawke (via Reality Bites) and Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson is soooo astoundingly good!)
– I realised that my friend has a damn good band called Ghosts of Television
– I’ve also realised that no matter how hard I try to resist, I have slowly become the pretentious artsy fartsy wank that I’ve tried so hard not to become… but then again, I fluctuate between moments of absolute idiocy (artsy wank) and normalcy (typical Maggie-ness) depending on what the situation is
– I window show with a gusto, that is, looking and not buying into every single shop
– I don’t volunteer at 2SER as much as I’d like to mostly due to my increased levels of apathy
– Being twenteen is potentially overrated; I woke up the morning of my twentieth and thought, ‘Oh it’s my birthday today’ and then ‘Dammit, I’m late for my 9AM lecture…’
– I’m going to Melbourne with my workmate Ausseela at the end of June which is smackbang in the middle of Melburnian winter which is notoriously cold Yarghh..
– I’m still yet to rid myself of this tendency to write long, pointless entries regardless of the occasion..
– Getting over the death of someone close to you is easy in some ways and harder in many more.

My eyeballs are killing me, and I still have 1000 words to go for this travel piece. Ironically enough, I reckon I just banged out over 1000 words to write this blog entry! AARGHHHH…