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Jose Gonzalez w/ Cass McCombs – [Live]

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Saturday, 01 December 2007

You've got to hand it to KCRW for finding the right combination of artists to put on a sonically diverse show. Tuesday night's line up of Cass McCombs and Jose Gonzalez at the Henry Fonda Theatre was no exception. While most of the audience was there to witness the hauntingly beautiful voice of Jose Gonzalez, Cass McCombs should not be dismissed as just an opener. His recently released album, Dropping the Writ, shows an interestingly schizophrenic approach to the singer/songwriter genre. Rather than simply croon about loves lost while gently stroking a guitar, Cass experiments by using a variety of tempos, vocal techniques and lyrical content. A first-time listener may pass Dropping the Writ off as the struggles of an artist having a genre identity crisis, but further listening reveals experimental tracks carefully buffered between softer folk songs. When Cass and band played the set on Tuesday night they were unafraid of showcasing wide-ranging ideas of what the singer/songwriter genre can include. The effect that night were songs such as “That's That,” which uses old school “du-wahs” to make “cleaning toilets at a nightclub in Baltimore” sound like a whimsically romantic existence. In “Lionkiller” Cass uses a hurried tempo to describe his own birth as a harrowing journey and “Desert” employs a slightly psychedelic vibe that I haven't heard in a few years. And yet it seems that the audience somehow missed this experience because they were too busy waxing lyrical over the anticipation of Jose Gonzalez. While the low buzz of chatter didn't undermine Cass' performance (perhaps it made it seem even cozier) it's a shame that so few of us were paying attention to an artist worth exploring.

The second that Jose Gonzalez made his way on stage the chatter of the audience ceased. Breaking into applause, people cheered “We love you Jose!” Fans are typically dead silent during his live performances, refusing to let any small disturbance mar the quality of the sound. This evening the silence was broken as shouts of approval rang throughout the night. Jose started off the performance alone under the spotlight, enchanting us with old favorites such as “Heartbeats” as well as songs from his newest album In Our Nature. Later in the set he was joined by Erik Bodin on percussion and vox as well as backup vocalist Yukimi Nagano. The contributions of percussion and back-up vocals added an undeniably favorable lilt to his live performance. The entire set was entrancing as he played many of his newer songs including “Down the Line,” “Killing for Love” and “In Our Nature.” The performance reached a crescendo during the cover of Massive Attack's “Teardrop.” The deep vibrations of his guitar harmonized with the percussion while his voice, still a living warmth of perfection managed to sound fragile and commanding at once. Jose and company ended the set, thanking the audience for their support. We did not have to cheer for long before Jose came back to perform a three-song encore, including the 8-plus minute “Cycling Trivialities,” to finish the evening with one last chance to relish in the tenderness of his voice.

More on Jose Gonzalez here: www.jose-gonzalez.com

More on Cass McCombs here: www.cassmccombs.com

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