Car, the Garden Pours His Heart Out in LA on First U.S. Tour

You know the feeling of having your worries and sorrows melt away at the sound of someone’s voice? Maybe it’s the voice of a loved one or a late-night radio DJ, but either way, there’s a profoundly soothing power to certain voices. South Korean indie singer, Car, the Garden, has such a magical voice, and it enveloped The Regent Theater like a soft blanket at his first Los Angeles show. While the singer recently completed several shows in Korea, this was his first time touring North America, and fans in Los Angeles gave him a well-mannered yet warm welcome. The concert was a no-frills affair–the singer and the instrumentalists were dressed in casual clothes, and there weren’t any fancy effects. However, the variety of songs and freshness of the live arrangements kept the show engaging throughout.

Car, the Garden’s live voice is as velvety smooth as it is in the recordings, and the live band amped up the energy and brought out sounds and textures that give even familiar songs a novel dimension. The live band arrangement for “LITTLE BY LITTLE,” one of his most well-known songs, gave the lightly groovy track a propulsive energy. Instead of using a harp sound for the opening arpeggios in “Lost 2,” the keyboardist used a piano sound, which created a grander yet more melancholy mood. Between songs, Car, the Garden pulled out his notecards and did his best to communicate in broken English. He shared memories of his last visit to LA and briefly introduced his songs. Before reverting back to fluent Korean, which, judging by the pre-concert chatter, was comprehensible to many of the fans, he also talked about how he mixes sounds and influences from multiple genres to make music based on his mood. This attention to and experimentation with the sonic palette was noticeable at the show–guitar and synth effects curated for each song sprinkled color and drew out less prominent instrumental layers, adding freshness to even well-worn favorites.

Many of his songs are inspired by past relationships or romantic interests. “DIAMOND,” from his latest album of the same name, is an apology to a past relationship and features a funky bass undercurrent and wistful vocals. “Tallguy” came about because he overheard a girl referring to him that way (as opposed to “handsome” or “cute” guy). As the most avant-garde number in his set, the song’s chromaticism and relentless pulse lent it a “circus-gone-wrong” kind of vibe, further intensified by the flashing red lights and the moody, borderline escapist lyrics. “Island” is also, you guessed it, inspired by a romantic interest. The laid-back, undulating track eased the audience into another one of the singer’s most popular songs, “Tree,” which epitomizes his style of smooth, bittersweet vocals paired with expansive instrumentals.

After performing “Home Sweet Home,” which was written during a rough period in his life, he sang “Till the End of Time,” and the acapella sections allowed his resonant voice to echo throughout the venue in goosebump-inducing fashion. The concert, comforting and energizing all at once, gave attendees a renewed appreciation of Car, the Garden’s emotive voice and inventive use of sounds.

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