He may look Argentinian, but JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ is as Swedish as they come. Growing up in the picturesque outskirts of Gothenburg, over the last twenty years he’s become a proud national export…
It was a pale version of our billing on stage. But, lookalike nervously muttering, it took a ten-minute search for the name of our support band. Well, turns out it wasn’t ‘Black and White’ or ‘Black or White’, but thirty-year-old Josh Edwards, who prefers to be known as the Spaniard ‘Blanco White’. He learned his persona on trips to Cadiz and Sucre, though he owed as much to his backing singer/violinist than his (albeit talented) lead work. She was haunting and, like Blanco, had little idea why Bill and Ben had been allowed to tag along. The two brothers stood, heads bent by a drum for five minutes straight… I think they actually fell asleep at one point. But they weren’t entirely useless. In fact, I know they weren’t. Because one of them (whoever was on the electric guitar?) proved his worth in the second-to-last, Kooks style Olalla, with undeniably impressive summery repetition. And, communication issues aside, they contributed a sweet addition to a talented band we could – and probably should – have heard about.
So, really, this could easily be a review of Blanco White. But that’s if it weren’t for the strong, confident strumming and brilliantly deep voice of our star. Strolling out to his raised perch, he scrapped the intimate guitar session people seemed to have expected. Instead, here was a seasoned, determined performer, blasting out suitable vibrations from electronic beats (even electronic backing singers), accompanied by responsive lights and projections on the move.
Those images became a source of fascination… aurora borealis, flowers and an incoming night sky… at one point a drawing of his face, from different angles, shadowed the singer in real time. But smart pop it wasn’t. The writing stayed authentic. “Hypnotic”, as the lady next to me slurred in a trance. A slew of music in Swedish, English and Spanish, culminating in the clicking rhythms and swaying of Swing, and the realisation that all songs led gently to the finish and a three-track encore.
As his profile flashed up on screen, we appreciated the full foreign (hairy) package. But while González may play the Latino hombre, his droll is unmistakably European. In March 1976, his parents and older sister fled Argentina during the coup, seeking refuge at the Swedish consulate in Rio de Janeiro (he was born a year later, when they’d been shipped to Gothenburg). Comparing Bristol to his hometown, we soon learnt of his appreciation for our city. After the whistles of a Blackbird cover, it was on to Massive Attack’s Teardrop and a choice of Nick Drake, Paul Simon or Al Booth. This is one of just four dates in the UK this season, as he swings from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles, and that showed. A packed capacity of young and old had travelled from north, west, east and south in a rousing endorsement of the encompassing power of a talent Sweden likes to keep for itself… but can’t quite cage in.
JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ was in concert at Motion in Bristol.
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