Jose Gonzalez at Pabst: A Review
Jose Gonzalez preformed at the Pabst Theater on Saturday, March 19, joined by classical sextet yMusic. If the thought of a Saturday night show at the Pabst gives you visions of whiskey cokes, crushed PBR cans and heavy guitar riffs drowned by a screaming crowd, you are deathly (or sweetly) mistaken. Jose Gonzalez put me to sleep on a Saturday night–in the best way possible.
The Pabst crowd itself was an intricate web of personalities, ranging from 30-year-olds with dreadlocks and espadrilles to some incredibly well-dressed older couples. Everyone seemed pretty artistic, which made me wonder, lamely, if I was the only one who first heard of Gonzalez in the 2005 “The O.C.” soundtrack. I knew I couldn’t be, as I sipped my PRB tall can in sweet denial.
Something about Gonzalez’ minimalist guitar-and-vocals acoustic lullabies has always appealed to me. Very delicate, sometimes inaudible words float in a dreamlike state across beautifully strummed chords. However, once you get a closer listen, Gonzalez pierces your soul with words of heartbreak, indecision and life’s vicious circle. The music is sweet, but what he’s saying always isn’t. I think that’s what rids these calming tracks of that certain precious tone that would kill it for me.
Gonzalez played several songs across the span of ’03’s “Veneer” to his most recent ’15 album “Vestiges and Claws” before being joined by yMusic. For those used to his acoustic style, the supplementing instruments may have seemed abrasive at first. This was not the case, as his songs melted harmoniously with yMusic’s violin and flute–somehow offering even more angelic clarity, unity and dreamlike melody to soar throughout Pabst’s ornate room. Gonzalez’ voice was angelic, but still raw and human, and somehow even more perfect in its quiet nuanced delicacy than the recorded version. Before I knew it, the set was over, and more than an hour had passed. Or was it just a dream?