Thursday, February 8, 2018
The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
My friend Greg introduces me to a lot of new music, and many years ago, he included José González’s cover of “Heartbeats” on a mix he sent me. It’s been a favorite song ever since. It’s been streamed over 200 million times on Spotify, too, so I bet you’ve heard “Heartbeats” even if you don’t know the name José González. I’d hoped to see José González live for years, and I was happily surprised to see he was playing The Music Hall in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I don’t think José tours very much in the United States, and certainly not in New England, so this was an exciting opportunity.
Colin and I arrived Portsmouth with enough time to grab a quick dinner at Flatbread. Our server let us know we could get to the venue faster if we left through their rear entrance, which was a time saving tip.
We made it to our awesome second row seats in time to see show opener, Bedouine. Bedouine was featured on NPR Music last summer, and from that I learned that she is Azniv Korkejian. She was “born in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian parents, Korkejian spent her early childhood in Saudi Arabia. After her family won the green-card lottery, she moved to the U.S. at the age of 10, living in Massachusetts, Texas and Kentucky before winding up in California as an adult.” Her background is pretty interesting, but she didn’t say much on stage. She has a unique, folky voice and plays classical guitar, but her songs sounded a lot alike and if I’m being honest, I thought her set was boring. I saw that Bedouine will play Newport Folk Festival this summer, so you can check her out there for yourself and see what you think.
José took the stage solo and played a lovely set. Something that sticks out even a few weeks later is that a couple arrived during José’s set and sat in their front row seats in front of us. The man in front of me was so tall that I couldn’t see José until I asked him to take of his hat and scoot down a bit–which he kindly did. I’m glad I asked. I always end up just behind the tallest person in the room!
José plays classical guitar and sings pretty melodies. He is soft spoken, but he told us the inspiration for a few of his songs, which I appreciated. He was warm with the audience. I find that José’s songs are a pleasure to listen to, but his lyrics are hard for me to decipher. I usually Google his lyrics, actually. I’m really glad I was in the room for this mellow night of good music. I was especially happy to hear “Heartbeats” and “Leaf Off / The Cave” (the video is amazing) live. He also played a beautiful cover of “Blackbird” that was stunning. José has an interesting life story, and I like context, so may want to check out this article. His full set on KEXP would give you a good sense of what you missed this night, too. An unexpected bonus was that I slept like a rock after this night of soothing music.