When we first saw Jim O’Rourke’s name on the Fuji roster it was attached to someone named Gaman Gilberto, which we naively assumed was some sort of Brazilian collaborator – O’Rourke doing bossa nova is hardly a novel idea. Actually, it’s the name of his backing band, all Japanese musicians. “Gaman” is Japanese for “patience” or “fortitude.”
O’Rourke has lived in Japan for the past decade-plus and seems appropriately acclimatized. His music hasn’t change drastically, though in a sense it has regressed to a kind of nostalgia for ‘70s singer-songwriters. Still, his noon set at the Field of Heaven was full of quirk, starting with his getup. Gnomish in his favorite soft hat, baggy jeans, carework shirt and full beard liberally streaked with gray, he was the anti-rock star, a sensibility confirmed a little story he told at one point in his shaky but serviceable Japanese about how drummers in the 80s always wore the same thing on stage and he hated it.
Though the songs were conventionally structured, O’Rourke expanded them with long introductions and coda that adhered to the ‘90s indie dynamic template of soft-loud-soft-loud ad infinitum. Some of the grooves were so strong as to threaten the equilibrium of the ensemble, who couldn’t quite keep up with their leaders volume choices. And the quieter passages were so delicate you could hear O’Rourke breathing. As for the singing, he was in key (not a small feat given the thrust of the songs) and could belt like a bluesmaster.