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WILD PATHS REVIEW: Evacuation didn't stop the crowd at Jose Gonzalez

PUBLISHED: 15:56 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:53 23 October 2019

José González was the Sunday headline act at Wild Paths festival. Picture: Tom Haistead-Stockwell

José González was the Sunday headline act at Wild Paths festival. Picture: Tom Haistead-Stockwell

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One song in and Jose Gonzalez has stopped performing.

Gig goers were evacuated after one song during José González's set at Open in Norwich. Picture: Ruth LawesGig goers were evacuated after one song during José González's set at Open in Norwich. Picture: Ruth Lawes

There is a fire alarm sounding at the Swedish singer-songwriter's headline set at Wild Paths - and various security guards floundering in smoke from an over enthusiastic machine - but Gonzalez is completely unflustered.

It's not all that surprising, though. Gonzalez, who shot to fame with a cover of The Knife's Heartbeat, made his name as an unassuming troubadour who transforms frantic acoustic guitar playing into subdued melodies. It's a formula that has worked well so far for soundtracks, and Gonzalez's songs have been more dominant on the scores of TV shows (House, The OC) rather than the charts.

The crowd, however, refuse to be in the background. Outside on London Street, where we've all been assembled, there is a commotion. And they have not been calmed by the comically-timed rainfall or, indeed, an unruly megaphone.

Back inside, after Gonzalez apparently headed into Gonzos - tote bag in hand, the set resumed with little fanfare. "So where we?" Gonzalez joked, before launching into one of his biggest hits, the painfully beautiful Crosses.

José González played hits including Hearbeats at Open in Norwich. Picture: Tom Haistead-StockwellJosé González played hits including Hearbeats at Open in Norwich. Picture: Tom Haistead-Stockwell

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Gonzalez, who performed alone with a guitar, was a masterclass in musicianship. In an age of bedroom producers, it's rare to see an artist with such technical proficiency. During the set, he glided seamlessly across the guitar strings with such prowess, it often sounded like a full band was playing.

But at times Gonzalez, who has three albums to his name, lacked variety. If his voice, which manages to be both nasal and pleasant, was wonderful in its consistency; then it was the set list which needed livening up. It was yearning for a shift in pace and, perhaps, something more uptempo.

The crowd seemed to think so too. The biggest reaction from the night came from the promise of a cover. "Al Green, Paul Simon or Nick Drake?" Gonzalez demanded - before being pelted back by the response. Blackbird, by the Beatles, was also the biggest sing-along of the night.

Gonzalez, however, did win back stragglers with his encore performance of Heartbeats. It was heartbreaking. And proved that delicate vocals - and restraint - sometimes pack a bigger punch than ostentatious balladeering. With his last album in 2015, Gonzalez could emerge from the shadows just yet.

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