Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Love songs, love songs, nothing but love songs…
Yeah, it sounds like the recipe for a really bad MOR radio station, doesn’t it?
But it’s also quite an apt description of Diego Garcia’s performance last month at The Linda in Albany. And there was absolutely nothing cheesy about it at all.
He crooned, and we swooned. The devastatingly handsome and relentlessly charming Garcia – imagine an alt-Latin incarnation of Bryan Ferry – made his Albany debut last September at LarkFest, and that performance obviously made quite an impression on him. “This is our first show in Albany,” he said at The Linda, a sly grin spreading across his face. “The first one you’ll remember, anyway. You guys were soooooooo drunk at LarkFest…”
Fortunately, the cozy confines of The Linda proved to be a much better fit for the Argentenian-American singer-songwriter’s lush, intimate, unapologetically romantic music.
The back-story of his lone solo album, “Laura,” which was released last year: Garcia penned the collection of songs after the love of his life left him. He won her back and they’re now married, which would appear to be pretty undeniable evidence of just how good his songs are – as well as how convincingly he performs them.
The guitar-strumming Garcia was backed by an excellent quartet of musicians who supplied a fluid but firm foundation. In addition to a supple bass-and-drums rhythm section – yes, that was Tift Merritt’s husband-drummer Zeke Hutchins anchoring the seductive beat – the band featured the warm, entrancing sound of Daniel Bensi on cello and the nimble, nylon-string guitar stylings of Zeke Zima, who wove his fretboard work around Garcia’s passionate songs like intricate handmade lacework.
With just one album to his credit, Garcia included a pair of unexpected cover songs in his too-short, 65-minute concert – Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and the Kinks’ obscurity “This Strange Effect” – both of which he transformed into his own. More importantly he wove his way through all of the songs on “Laura,” hitting his highwater marks with the sweeping, cinematic “Inside My Heart,” the sensual, hip-swaying “Separate Lives” (with Zima’s interwoven guitar filagrees recalling Fred Neil’s “Everbody’s Talking”), the mournful, film-noir-ish, Leonard Cohen-influenced album title track and “You Were Never There,” a perfect blend of bossa nova rhythms, melancholy lyrics and irresistable pop hooks that wrapped up the night as the final encore.
Opening the show with a sparkling, 45-minute solo set, local favorite Matt Durfee showcased his considerable guitar finger-picking talents, as well as his first-rate songwriting skills with such impressive tunes as the anti-love song “Another Thing Entirely,” the murder ballad “The Whole Nine” and “Everyone Wants to Be Right,” from his tenure with Palatypus.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “The band really kicked into gear on the next song, ‘Under This Spell’ — here, (Daniel) Bensi gave the first of many commanding performances on cello while joining (Diego) Garcia and (Chris) O’Connell on the song’s lilting harmony lines. Throughout, Garcia would strut between band members, holding his acoustic, occasionally kneeling before one of the soloists in awe. He had plenty of opportunities, especially from (Zeke) Zima, whose crisp playing on ‘Separate Lives’ made the song one of the evening’s early highlights. Bensi fired back with a great cello lead to close out ‘Roses and Wine,’ receiving thunderous applause from the nearly-full crowd.”
DIEGO GARCIA SET LIST
Under This Spell
Roses and Wine
This Strange Effect (the Kinks)
Nothing to Hide
Inside My Heart
All Eyes On You
Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
You Were Never There