“I didn’t do anything yet,” admitted Alejandro Rose-Garcia in the midst of the cheers that filled up The Wiltern Tuesday night as he walked on stage. Quickly strumming a couple of more chords, Rose-Garcia’s quick wit continued, “That’s the whole show, thank you so much.” Emerging alone and picking up the pieces where Kolars — Rob Kolar and Lauren Brown — gracefully left off, Rose-Garcia created a sense of immediate intimacy.
Trailing off into a myriad of stories, the magic that amplifies each track, Shakey Graves’ voice was freer than ever. Most will recall a cowboy hat, guitar, and essentially a one-man band, drumming a modified suitcase, acting as both a kick drum and a tambourine. Few would attribute the artist with an experimental sound, a full band, or a mild taste of Americana that gently sways away from its original country sounds, which all came into fruition at The Wiltern. Honing to a rekindled flame that was felt about five years ago during an Audiotree live session, Rose-Garcia defined the persona and person clearly on stage, tugging on every string that clings to a human, while inviting everyone in for a peak.
Following the long strides of a new album released this year, Can’t Wake Up, a sincere sense of identity alluded the 13 track collection through a conscious stream of perception and reality. Similar sentiments were brought to the chilled realm of the Los Angeles theater as Rose-Garcia started his set in solitude, growing to the presently intertwined soundscapes of psychedelic-folk, to then only return and tie the evening with a solo encore.
The first half of the set eloquently brought familiar sounds. Rose-Garcia recollected what Los Angeles meant to him as he noted living in L.A. for five years, writing several tracks in the city, including “Roll the Bones.” Iconic notes seeped beneath his words and met the ears of an eager crowd as the single filled the room. Continuing about L.A., Rose-Garcia sarcastically stated while playing, “Because this is a very relaxed, easy city to live in and nothing ever goes wrong…at all. So you’re like, ‘yeah, so it goes,'” crooning the opening lines of the track.
“Word of Mouth” brought out a different carousel of emotions. Rose-Garcia hit the crowd with a scarred prowl, that seemed to be tucked in the pit of his gut and only emerged from time to time. Easily getting his point across and still possessing enough force to cut through when needed, Rose-Garcia’s butter knife like precision delivered and bounced from the theater’s walls back to a tight-knitted crowd.
The night not only rounded up beloved singles, but also traveled to new cuts, such as “Cops and Robbers“, “Mansion Door“, and “Excuses” which promoted Rose-Garcia’s humorous banter — “Friends going off in relationships and you’re like, ‘fuck you,'” — lining every word with a kick. Comical notions breezed from track to track, bestowing the gentleman from Texas as a master storyteller, expressing some stories that he couldn’t tell the crowd, while others slipped.
Towards the end, the audience was thrown into an additional level of ecstasy with a beautiful and haunting cover of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way.” The lush sounds were filled neatly with the accompanying members of the band. Rose-Garcia’s tone was thick with emotions and a quaint, harsh bite, while “Late July” saw melodic and folk twangs.
Full circle revelations also stained the theater. During a life lesson musing, Rose-Garcia exhausted the concept of just going in a big circle, marking for the perfect time to bring up a member of his band — Patrick O’Connor — who was playing The Wiltern for the first time, and was previously an usher at the venue. Nodding onto more essential drifts of time, Rose-Garcia continued to express gratitude, thanking Kolars and throwing out a tidbit of their relationship hailing back to the band’s early start as He’s My Brother She’s My Sister.
The evening was left on a high note of sounds, growth, and contemplative residue. Delivering a more honest version of Rose-Garcia than previously witnessed, Shakey Graves’ heartbeat was as strong as ever, looking for the next hill to beat.
“Can’t even tell you how much it means to come back and play here,” said Rose-Garcia.
“Los Angeles, California, from the bottom of my heart, I’ll see ya next time.”