Better Than: A nap on the beach on Diego Garcia Island. I think.
Diego Garcia’s Paradise dropped on October 8 via Concord Records, and though the former lead singer of New York indie outfit Elefant hit the road shortly thereafter in support of his new work, it’s clear that the ambitious performer is still getting his show legs this time around. Garcia took to the Highline Ballroom stage last night to play selections from the record, an approachable collection of love songs that closely mirror those of his idol, Julio Iglesias, in style and scope. There was little about Garcia’s live show that didn’t stick closely to the pages of the Spanish heartthrob of yesteryear’s playbook: the slow smiles, the emphatic gestures, the charming (and obligatory) introductions to each song, the pretty, sailing notes that rendered his tenor velvet and pristine, the dramatic facial gestures and heightened theatrics perfected by lounge singers and cabaret acts throughout the 20th century.
There was also little about Garcia’s live show that was interesting, in that it was just plainly good and overwhelmingly inoffensive. Watching Garcia sincerely and wholeheartedly deliver a volley of ballads and rumba-ready riffs that played on well-worn tropes of scorned and recovered love, it was difficult to fault the man, because he was just so damn sincere about it. And if the music’s beautiful (which it was), with lush arrangements and the heady high provided by warm classical guitar strains, one has to applaud a musician for singing well and working seamlessly with the band behind them, right?
“You Were Never There” and “Laura” were particularly enjoyable. But there was something awkward about Garcia at the Highline Ballroom in that the spark that could ignite the ammunition provided by these established songwriting bones never left the match head, and the intensity that truly sets an artist apart–be it through the poetry of their lyrics, the intensity of their performance or, hell, even the endearing mistakes one makes when they get too into the bridge they’re attempting–were largely absent.
Towards the end of his set, he mentioned he shares the name of an island in the Indian Ocean, and one can only assume he did so because it’s the first thing that pops up when you Google “Diego Garcia.” As this was the second show Garcia’s played in support of Paradise, one can only hope he and his band truly flesh out the show and loosen up to let more in beyond pretty choruses and the predictable execution perfected by a Spanish singer whose popularity peaked before he was born. If he does, he should have no problem garnering more interest than an island in basic search results.
Critical Bias: Can’t go wrong with a man who could break into a rousing rendition of “Malagueña” any minute, and that’s the kind of vibe Garcia’s band–if not the man himself–gave off from beginning to end. If you’re allergic to flamenco or Spanish guitar, you need to have that checked out.
Overheard: “It was good!” “It was cheesy.” A couple booking it from the Highline shortly after Garcia’s set were (good-naturedly) arguing over the show they’d just seen, going back and forth for a minute and weighing the pros and cons of a show they didn’t favorably respond to, but couldn’t find a problem with.
Notebook Dump: “Make up yr mind re: pollution dude!” Garcia’s sense of humor is worth the ticket alone, in that he trips himself up, gracefully, and has no problem poking fun at himself. That’s exactly what he did once he realized that he’d brushed off global warming (“Drive your big cars, I don’t care”) in one song intro only to say “This is a song about pollution!” while warming up the next. Might wanna change the set list up next time, bud.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 23, 2013