I'm confident Argentinian-Swede acoustic guitar maestro José González recognized the mecca-nicity of Champaign-Urbana when he chose to grace our fair cities with his awesomeness on his recent short US tour. Playing just 7 venues in 10 days in small to mid-sized cities (no Chicago, NY, or LA!), including the massive Coachella Festival in California, José hit the Courtyard Café (absolute maximum capacity 449, though I highly doubt they've ever stuffed that many people in there) at the Illini Union at the University of Illinois on Wednesday, May 2nd. I was the lucky winner of two free tickets (an $8/ticket value!!) in my first ever call-in radio contest win on C-U's own 107.1 WPGU, though I was planning on going even if I had to pay the exorbitant ticket price (ha). Most of the crowd was sitting on the floor or in chairs in the back of the room, which made for a lovely and laid-back environment. After a highly mediocre performance by a local band (that I was expecting more from) with a guitarist standing front and center who decided to face away from the audience for the entire performance, the lights dimmed to a spot on a chair center-stage, and José stepped in, sat down, and began the magic. Over the course of a bit under an hour, José played every song that I hoped he would, including all his more well-known songs ("Hand on Your Heart", "Stay in the Shade", "Heartbeats" being his most popular, methinks). The sound in the Courtyard was really amazing, as both his voice and guitar were incredibly clear, loud, and beautiful. (I'd experienced sound issues at concerts there in the past, so it was very nice to see that change, though we realized afterwards that José had his own Nordic sound dude running the show, not the venue staff.) It was definitely one of the best concerts I've been to. There's just something wonderful about one man and a guitar, alone onstage, able to so captivate an audience for an entire show. "Teardrop", "Crosses", and "Lovestain" were three highlights of the evening. Interestingly, something seemed off on my favorite song, "Hand on Your Heart", but I couldn't quite place what it was. The crowd clapped heartily after each song, and then was in complete silence while José did his thing. His guitar work and picking were, as my friend put it, bad ass, and lots of fun to watch up close and in person. So, if you're so lucky to live in a town as cool as Chambana, and José comes for a visit, you must show him the love. In the meantime, here's one MP3 and a video I took of "Stay in the Shade". Taylor over at Music For Kids Who Can't Read Good has a nice write-up, two MP3s, and a video (of "Crosses") at his site (it seems he got a closer seat on the floor than I did, so his pictures and video are better!)
José González - "Teardrop" [live audio MP3...at a different concert]
A rather awkward "um"-filled interview w/ José from the University High School (Urbana) student newspaper, with videos from the show: "Guitar hero"
Below: José González - "Stay in the Shade" [live video, May 2, 2007]
Official Site | Buy the Album (Veneer)
MySpace (listen to "Lovestain" & "Heartbeats")