How anyone can be anything less than captivated by the exquisite beauty of the music of Jose Gonzalez is beyond me. Nevertheless, a large portion of tonight’s audience were more interested in the banality of their own conversations than Gonzalez’s understated greatness. Ignorant fools! However, he seemed unperturbed by their apparent indifference and gave a performance of earnest introspection, playing with a deft touch and a delicate vocal delivery. He played all but three tracks of his brilliant debut album Veneer, in addition to touching renditions of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. A great exponent of the art of economy, his guitar playing is deceptively simple, dexterous but never showy, his between song banter practically monosyllabic—the closest he got to displaying any kind of excitement was cracking a rare smile and quietly saying ‘Yo!’ In the studio, Zero 7 is the product of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, but live they share the stage with a live band to act as extra arms, legs and mouths, thus eschewing the rather boring and uninspiring spectacle of two blokes standing behind laptops. Their set got off to a slightly shaky start with a couple of somewhat underwhelming songs, but after warming up a bit they soon hit their stride.
The eccentric and exuberant Sia was outstanding; her drawling, sultry croon was particularly well showcased in the numbers “Distractions” and “Destiny”. Gonzalez returned to the stage to play his part in the song “Futures”, one of the highlights of the set. With a total of 8 people on stage, they drew out the end of the song into a wandering extended jam. For most of the set each tune was fronted by either Sia or Jose, but mid-way through they took a back seat for a few instrumental numbers. As the two singers took a break at the back of the stage, they brought to mind two children at a party. Sia was like the birthday girl, unable to keep still and mischievous while Jose was the nerdy, quiet boy too shy to join in.
The final song before their encore was the Jose-penned “Crosses”. Gonzalez performed this song during his support slot, a plaintive and poignant piece of music, but it was transformed into something entirely different, uplifting and life-affirming. Zero 7 proved that soulful, chilled-out electronica can work equally well live as it does as the soundtrack to TV gardening and cookery shows, dinner parties or, indeed, a big fat blunt.