How much you bought into last night’s performance by Diego Garcia depends on how deeply you view popular music as a means of pure of romantic expression, or at least as an intention of that expression.
A Detroit native of Argentine parents, Garcia engaged in songs drawn largely from two albums that explored the aftermath of love as obsessively fueled heartbreak (2011’s Laura) and in stages of reconciliation and rebirth (2013’s Paradise). What that boiled down was music that danced a fine line between sentimentality and self pity.
Given his parentage, it wasn’t surprising to hear elements of Spanish balladry surface during the performance, from the whispery nature of Garcia’s singing during the set-opening Roses and Wine (which recalled the summery vocals of Josh Rouse) to the purposely confessional nature of songs like Separate Lives.
While there was no denying the emotive impact of Garcia’s compositions, it was the lead guitar work of accompanist and Buenos Aires native Zeke Zima that carried the evening. From the flamenco-like flourishes during a cover of the Kinks’ Strange Effect to the bossa nova rhythms that dressed Donde Estas to the crisp, pop-flavored melody that drove Garcia’s most affirmative tune She Dances (an ode to his daughter), Zima’s playing was as unassuming and exact as Garcia’s songs were obvious in their need to express vulnerability.
Frankly, the 40 minute opening set by Lexington’s own Bear Medicine was as engaging as anything offered by the headliners. There also, though, the narratives got a little skittish, especially during the burrowing bugs saga Infestation. But there was so much stylistically to be thrilled by, including folk accents drawn around flute, cello, keyboards, guitar and drums that were alternately rockish and reserved. All of those sounds and ideas came into play during the mammoth instrumental Big Chief.
Bear Medicine cellist Seth Murphy also supplied keen and presumably unrehearsed support for two songs during Garcia’s hour long set – Nothing to Hide and You Were Never There.
It was also cool to again experience a performance in the Singletary’s upstairs recital hall – a vastly more intimate space the main 1,500 seat concert hall. Given the folkish foundation of both acts and the especially conversational tone of Garcia’s set, the recital hall proved a fine fit for the night.