UNFUSSY: But González’s live performance transformed his subdued bedroom compositions into
loud, stormy affairs.
The notes José González coaxes out of his nylon-stringed guitar are bright and dry. Motionless except for the furious tapping of his foot, this 29-year-old Swedish-born musician of Argentine descent shuns the usual frontman tricks of mic grabbing, beat dancing, and hip shaking. He even avoids the concert expressions reserved for his own genre, eschewing witty anecdotes and explanations for unfussy introductions. A week ago Thursday at the Paradise, a sold-out crowd who remained restless throughout Mia Doi Todd’s romantic, harmonium-infused surfer songs grew hushed for González, who tempers his Pink-Moon-meets-bossa-nova æsthetic with a serrated scissor edge.
The minimalist-obsessed singer-songwriter opened with a number from his debut, Veneer (Hidden Agenda). “Hints” on disc is mildly aggressive, a moody rumination about a relationship at a crossroads. “Hints” live is the eye of hurricane. On stage, González morphs his subdued bedroom compositions — which can function as serenades or as funeral dirges — into loud, stormy affairs. He doesn’t strain or push the volume of his high tenor. Yet his guitar grows ever louder, coloring in the sultry spaces with a chilled austerity. Soon joined by Erik Bodin and Yuki Nagamo (percussion, keyboards, and harmony), he allowed his modest companions to buoy him through the best of his catalogue. “Down the Line,” the single from his current In Our Nature (Peacefrog), was bubble-packaged by taut restraint, and his sped-up solo cover version of the Knife’s “Heartbeats” swelled into something new, opaque, and full, flooding the room from floor to balcony.
González sliced away at his set quickly, alternating the forceful with the delicate. His punk-rock alter ego escaped on “Crosses” and on his encore finale, a cover of Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy.” But “Broken Arrows,” “The Nest,” and “Cycling Trivialities” were shots of melancholy, no chaser.