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Live Review: José González @ Sydney Opera House, Vivid LIVE

29 May 2023 | 11:09 am | Shaun Colnan

“Yeah, so, the album’s only half an hour…but the show is supposed to be 90 minutes…so..."

José González On Stage Sydney Opera House

José González On Stage Sydney Opera House (Image Credit: Jordan Munns)

Vivid LIVE 2023 brought an enchanting evening to the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. José González, the master of resonant acoustic guitar and tranquil vocals, took the stage to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his breakthrough album, Veneer. The anticipation in the air was palpable as eager fans eagerly awaited the meditative and calming effects of González's performance.

From the moment he strummed the first chord, the audience was captivated by the soothing melodies emanating from his acoustic guitar. Each note reverberated through the Concert Hall, creating an atmosphere of tranquillity and introspection. González’s playing possesses a mesmerising quality, effortlessly drawing listeners into a state of serenity. 

The subtle variations in his tranquil vocals further enhanced the ethereal ambience, enveloping the hall in a cocoon of musical bliss - the perfect embodiment of the refrain on opening track, Slow Moves: “We'll keep on whispering our mantras.”

Photo Credit: Jordan Munns

The Swede returned for the first time since his 2018 sold-out performances down under to play the indie-folk classic in its entirety with the audience unified in accompanying Lovestain with a soft echoing click. Cheers rang out as González launched into the ineffably perfect Heartbeats and continued through the album’s zenith with Crosses and Deadweight on Velveteen

Once the album was completed, González joked with the audience: “Yeah, so, the album’s only half an hour…but the show is supposed to be 90 minutes…so I better play some covers…”

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In addition to his original compositions, González treated the audience to a couple of stunning covers. His rendition of Eva Cassidy's version of Kathy's Song by Simon and Garfunkel transported listeners to a place of nostalgia and longing, prefacing the truncated rendition with the comment: “Sometimes it’s good to leave things out”. The delicate nuances in his interpretation captured the essence of the song, evoking emotions that resonated deeply within the hearts of those in attendance. 

Similarly, his rendition of Nick Drake's Cello Song showcased González’s ability to infuse his own unique style into beloved classics, paying homage to the original while imbuing it with his signature touch, recalling his early days in Gothenburg when people told him he sounded like the cult folk icon: “Then I listened, and I was like, yeah, Pink Moon’s my album.”

The meditative atmosphere of González’s performance was complemented by the impeccable setting of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. The grandeur and acoustics of the venue added a sense of reverence to the occasion, elevating the music to new heights - a welcome respite from the crowded foreshore brimming with Vividites. 

Photo Credit: Jordan Munns