Live Review: José González, Tiny Ruins

8 February 2016 | 11:32 am | Bryget Chrisfield

"From his first strum, González silences the crowd even before we hear that longing timbre."

After checking out some giraffes, zebras and baboons, we wander 'round looking for a desirable posi with a decent view of the stage. Excitedly, we spot a random bench seat. Then we get closer and notice a "No Sitting" sign. Don't sit on the benches, people. What? Then we wind up spreading our sarong on bricks inside a structure, because the grass area is rammed.

The gentle strains of Tiny Ruins waft by on the breeze as Hollie Fullbrook dedicates a song — Me At The Museum, You In Winter Gardens — to tonight's headliner, because she heard he went for a run around Melbourne at ridiculous o'clock this morning. Fullbrook sings a cover, Andalucia, and says she hopes she "doesn't ruin" the song for John Cale fans. A very pure vocal tone is on display when Fullbrook presents a new song, Dream Wave, which she tells is about growing up near the coast in New Zealand. There's only scattered applause at this point in the evening, because punters are still tucking into their picnic hampers so have their hands full. After a false start, where Fullbrook struggles with a sticky chord, she changes her mind and closes with Days Are Long, Nights Are Longer

The Zoo's short film about the bandicoot, the fox and the dog (telling us about the national recovery program for the eastern barred bandicoot) — clearly an ongoing saga — is back to entertain us on the big screen before our main act.

The backdrop looks like a mythological map and if it's not specifically for José González it certainly suits his sounds. From his first strum, González silences the crowd even before we hear that longing timbre. A baby in a stroller that's parked behind us loudly clacks away on some toy and immediately pisses us off. After performing one song solo, González is joined on stage by his band for added hand claps, drums and strums. "Well it's one thing to say you love me/But another to mean it from the heart" — endearing, heartfelt lyrics. What's that you say? It's a Kylie cover? Indeed, it's Hand On Your Heart! Both the drummer and bongo player keep time with a pair of sticks in each hand throughout one song, which is pleasantly unsettling. González has an impressive profile, a sculptor's dream. During The Forest, a flock of birds flies by overhead and chirps approvingly. Percussionist/keyboardist James Mathé (often Barbarossa in liner notes) takes over on lead vocals for a song and shines brightly. González commences Teardrop solo — there's so much emotion in his singing that you'd swear he were constantly heartbroken — and then the full band strike up. González  introduces The Knife's Heartbeats, appropriately crediting his fellow countrymen for penning this song, and the lament suspends poignantly in the air.

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González returns to the stage almost immediately to commence the encore solo. Then he tunes for ages before we hear Open Book. He's also an accomplished whistler. His backing band enters the stage space only to about-face on González's command when he fancies singing another song on his own. González sings one of his band Junip's songs, Line Of Fire, after which all musicians return to the stage. Glockenspiel experienced in an outdoor setting equals pure magic and Down The Line is a treat for the soul.

En route to the car park, however, a charming young lady announces to her posse, "I'm gonna have to have a wee by the car. I'm busting!" Spell broken.