You could tell what sort of concert it was going to be last night (Oct. 4) at Park West by looking at the stage: Just two chairs on an almost bare stage, each facing two microphones, no guitar pedals or fancy gear. This was going to be a night of quiet guitar, unadorned by special effects. The opening act was a Brit named James Blackshaw, who plucked a 12-string guitar on pretty instrumental songs. The roadies then came out and took away his chair, leaving the one behind it for José González.
González, of course, is the Argentine-Swede balladeer who released the superb collection Veneer in Europe in 2003, finally breaking through to American audiences a couple of years after that. His new album, In Our Nature, is another fine bunch of quiet, serene folk songs. González is not necessarily the most expressive live perfomer. He doesn’t move much or show a ton of emotion, except in his own subtle way. It’s a real pleasure to hear his classical technique on the guitar (a little bit of classical music, a little bit of Nick Drake, a little bit of Antonio Carlos Jobim) and his soft singing. A microphone was sitting on the floor in front of González to catch the sound of his white-sneakered feet tapping, though even his tapping was pretty darn soft.
The crowd watched sitting down, including a bunch of people on the floor right in front of the stage, who gave him some very appreciative applause. During his encore, González did a nice (and for him, pretty lively) cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”