Swedish folk singer turns venue into arena

Liliana Castañeda
News Editor

Jose Gonzalez, Swedish folk singer, killed it with love at the Fonda Theater in his second performance this year in Los Angeles Aug. 25. Gonzalez grew in prominence when his music appeared in an Oscar-winning film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which explores themes of complacency and getting out of one’s comfort zone.

Solo artist Sam Burton, accompanied by a backing band, was his opener and like his last performance, he left a huge impression on the crowd. While applause was sparse as he walked onto the stage, the applause and shouts of encouragement by the time he finished singing his first song were a huge contrast to that initial reaction. 

“Nothing Touches Me,” from his 2020 debut album “I Can Go With You” was the first song he performed with the voice that matched a dreary summer afternoon’s end. The same angst and melancholy was present throughout his set. 

With lyrics like, “My hands they bite the sea, my mind can’t make it move. Nothing touches me, the morning is out of reach from the frozen sleep. I want to be a child, nothing touches me,” there is no doubt that Burton will gain a larger following soon. 

As Gonzalez walked onto the stage the venue resembled a gladiator’s arena far more than a music venue with the uproar and upright excitement of the standing crowd. But instead of watching a battle to the death amongst ancient trained warriors, it was a curly-haired man with a gentle voice and a classical guitar. 

My favorite song, “Down the Line,” the song that introduced me to a whole new subgenre of independent music in 2016, was played second and it did not disappoint. The song is made up of smooth guitar picking and guitar slapping, producing the perfect balance between percussion and rhythm. 

Gonzalez, or the one man band as I like to call him, was able to pick and pluck the guitar whilst singing, playing stomp box, and creating loops with pedals, giving the impression there was a band playing behind him. He, however, was the only one on stage for the better part of two hours but it felt complete. 

His ability to reach such a wide array of people can also be attributed to his trilingual background. He has music with English, Spanish, and Swedish lyrics. 

Songs like “El Invento” explore existential themes in Spanish, while “Tjomme,” explores themes of socio-political issues in Swedish.

The melodies carried throughout were like sweet wisps of wind that maneuvered in and out of crevices and landed you in a blissful oasis of pretty sounds. From trills to arpeggios. From murmurs to falsettos. 

These small elements made all the difference in the end result of the music. The music truly transported you to a serene paradise momentarily before the faster paced songs began, and made you want to dance. 

The light design was beautiful and in perfect sync with the music. With mostly purple, blue and green hues with the occasional flashing golds, the music was enhanced with an enchanting lighting design. 

In fact, the only song that had any red in it was his song called “Killing for Love,” and as the title suggests it was more intense – more pronounced bass, harder strums and simpler lyricism open for interpretation. 

Liliana Castañeda can be reached at liliana.castaneda@laverne.edu.

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Liliana Castañeda, a senior communications major, is the Fall 2022 news editor of the Campus Times. She has previously served as editorial director, arts editor, copy editor and a staff writer.

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