February 29, 2008
Better Than: Sitting in an isolation tank in the middle of Biscayne.
Miami is so much fucking cooler than most people give it credit for. We’ve got the Book Fair, we’ve got Winter Music Conference, and, of course, we’ve got Art Basel Miami Beach, each of which, in their own bright way, prove that commerce and cool can coexist.
And then we’ve got folks like Rhythm Foundation and Pop Life, two outfits who bravely, boldly and adamantly insist that cool can’t be bought, at any price – but it can be banked on (to a degree), if you’ve nerve enough to stage shows no one else dares. And if, on occasion, you don’t mind teaming up to get the show to go on.
Such was the case last Friday night at the Manuel Artime Theatre in Little Havana, when Rhythm and Pop teamed to stage a man named Jose Gonzalez, and where the forces of cool coalesced with a rareness only a few hundred got the chance to never forget.
Unfortunately Jose G. didn’t live up to all the tall cool hype, not to these ears, anyway. Oh, he was cool, alright; so cool in fact I bet the cat never even broke a sweat.
Which was my problem with the man’s show. Yeah, I know, you don’t take in a troubadour and expect to catch The Hives, but would it be too much to ask that we get to hear more than what we’ve already heard elsewhere? I mean, had I wanted simply to watch the songs, I would’ve stayed home and looked at my iPod.
That’s not to say Jose is completely without merit. “Crosses,” “Teardrop,” “Heartbeats” and “Down the Line,” each of which he performed, are hits worthy of all the accolades they’ve received, even if two of the four were written by someone else. And Gonzalez’s ghostly version of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (which closed the show) illustrated just how inspired an interpreter he can be.
But as I quipped throughout the rest of the night to anyone within earshot, even the best amusement park in the world is gonna get boring if it only has one ride.
Of course 99 out of 100 attendees surveyed would probably disagree with me, and that’s their prerogative. It’s not easy dethroning a deity, and it’s highly unlikely Jose G.’s gonna fall off gently, no matter how soft-spoken his sturm und drang. The cat’s keen, and the cat’s cool, and I could think of few better folkies I’d rather have cuing me in to Richard Dawkins or prodding me to buy Sony. But jeez, man, would it hurt to once in a while raise your fist in more than a mere whisper? -- John Hood
Personal Bias: Eggheads always make me hungry.
Random Detail: The lights were as dreamy as the sing-song.
By the Way: Jose G.’s whole tour is undertaken in conjunction with Reverb, the non-profit which helps musicians leave less of a carbon footprint on the road.