Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Jose Gonzalez w/ Shuyler Jansen -- Park Theatre, Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Yeah! I actually got tickets to this! I was pretty late in remembering this was coming up, and when I looked into getting tickets there were only six left -- so good thing I remembered when I did!

The show opened last night with Saskatoon country-rocker and Old Reliable member Shuyler Jansen, accompanied by the Edmontonian drummer whose name I have somehow completely forgotten. They were, uh... they really... they were there.

It was okay for the first couple of songs, dark and twisty, interesting sort of stuff -- but then the uncomfortable realization followed that all of his songs were being played in the same tempo, with largely the same dynamics, and they tended to blend together after a while. It might have just been an off day for the two of them, since they'd mentioned that they both drove here from Saskatoon that very day; "I'm so slow right now," Jansen added briefly. Nothing offensive, certainly, but nothing either that made me want to rush out and buy some albums.

Well, that's okay! Maybe I'll warm to them next time I run into them. Besides, the main event was forthcoming! Bring on the world-class headlining act!

They never actually turned the lights on, not all the way. It's an ambience thing.

Jose Gonzalez is definitely as good as you expect him to be, full of guitar majesty and unparalleled songwriting skills -- so I was mostly satisfied with the show. Mostly.

You may remember back when I talked about the Tom Cochrane and John Mellencamp concert that led to my little brother and I taking turns acting indignant about the songs that were left out of Cochrane's setlist. Where my Paper Tigers at god damn it And it's no secret to anybody that my absolute favourite Jose Gonzalez song, cover or original, is Killing For Love; hell, I've posted it on this blog twice, clearly I've got a certain fondness for it.

And I figured, between his two albums and his Joy Division cover, he has a total of twenty-three songs -- and Killing For Love was the first single off his second album! (In Sweden, anyway; it was the third single everywhere else.) Surely he had to play it!



You can imagine how I was a tad cheesed off by this. I mean, come on! I know his covers draw the lion's share of his popularity, but if a song is strong enough to be released as a single off his second album -- and again, he only has two -- then why on earth would he leave it off his live playlists? Rasserfrackin' mumble mumble what in tarnation.

So there was that. Also curious was the concert's inclusion of a couple pieces that called for a trumpet part; he didn't have a trumpet player handy, so what they did was pipe the recorded trumpet segment over his playing from the control booth. So he's sitting at the microphone, just himself and his guitar, bathed in the entirety of what little light there was -- and then this loud, disembodied trumpet arises from nowhere, and the majority of the crowd starts looking around the small venue as if wondering where on earth the trumpet player is hiding. This sort of thing can kind of take a brother out of the moment, you understand.

And he screwed up the last verse of Crosses, incidentally. I know, I know, maybe I'm being kind of harsh on him for mentioning it, because it was at one of the harder parts -- the turnaround coming out of the bridge, under the line "the streets outside your window". It was a really noticeable flub, too, the kind where you could see him shake his head and then play the last four bars again to centre himself. Now, I've tried playing the song a few times before, and that's usually the spot where I'm going to screw it up too -- so I was all set to commiserate with him for messing up that part before I blinked and remembered, wait, this is his song. If anybody is going to be able to play this song live, we should hope it's him.

He's still leaps and bounds ahead of most any other singer-songwriter you'll catch, of course. From this assortment of nitpicks you might assume that I was disappointed with his performance, and that isn't the case in the slightest; he had his off moments, sure, but damn if that guy can't sing and play guitar. I was tempted to write off his misplays as nerves, since he'd mentioned that this was his very first time playing here -- but the longer I thought about it the more I started to think that he might not yet have full confidence in playing his own material live. It's not an uncommon sentiment, not by any means -- it takes a good long while before playing your own songs to an audience is less intimidating than playing songs by other people. But you could palpably feel how much more confident he was when he launched into any of his three massively popular covers, because immediately he played louder, sat up straighter, sang more enthusiastically. And, not coincidentally, the covers were emphasized by their placement; he closed the main set with Teardrops and closed the encore with Love Will Tear Us Apart. And they're great covers, don't get me wrong! But I really do prefer his originals, ESPECIALLY KILLING FOR LOVE I MEAN COME ON even if he doesn't necessarily, so I hope he puts the same level of energy into his own songs the (hopeful and hypothetical) next time he comes through town.

What else, you might ask, made me think that he was nervous during this concert? He only played for an hour, encore included. And that is really weird. Shuyler Jansen and Jose Gonzalez had almost the same set length, which seems off somehow when one guy is the opener from one province over and the other guy is the headliner from halfway across the world. Alas! So it goes, sometimes.

Heck, I'm just glad I got tickets on such short notice! Man, I've got to start considering these things farther ahead of time. That reminds me, when is that Bugs on Broadway thing coming to t... what? Aw, crap!


Anonymous said...

Hey, I was at this show, too -- and really enjoyed it, but thought it was a little short. I think he wanted to get out and see the fireworks.

One correx: there was actually a trumpetist playing back at the mixing board. Like a real guy. With a real trumpet. No tape.

Anyway, he seemed a little nervous/shy throughout ... I wonder what the show tonight was like?

James Howard said...

For reals, an actual dude? Huh! Go figure! I was at the very back of the floor on the right side of the venue, so I couldn't actually see the board from where I was -- but why wouldn't they have just brought the trumpet player on stage? There was certainly room for him, if not enough lighting.

Thanks for the correction! Strangely enough, I feel better knowing that. Still a strange setup, but less so than I'd previously thought.

molasses said...

this a long time past your post, but I just stumbled upon it and I've got the answer to your missing trumpet player question and why he didn't get on stage...

The trumpet was played by Jose's he couldn't really step away from the board to get up on stage. I saw the show in Saskatoon and thought it was a kindof cool effect, having the trumpet come from the back of the room.