Oct. 12, 2010
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
If you're used to listening to Jack Johnson's mellow music in, say, your backyard through poolside speakers on a lazy afternoon, or a tiny watering hole like the one depicted in his new "At Or With Me" video with Andy Samberg, the concern during the long walk from the parking lot, up the ramp and through the little eco/grub/booze fair on the way to your Verizon seat was whether the intimacy would be lost amid pakalolo clouds, bouncing beach balls and women standing, swaying and swatting imaginary flies. Such fears were unfounded once Johnson and his three bandmates got busy.
It's easy to discount the artistry of Johnson, much as Samberg did with his strumming stoner Saturday Night Live skits that served as the undercard to the main event pitting comedian against singer-songwriter in that "At Or With Me" video. Johnson's music does have an old-shoe quality: it's safe, comfortable and as "Irvine" as this concert venue. It's made for mass consumption.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
What could be more all-American than making several references to your mom in the crowd? Johnson should have had the parking lot attendants passing out slices of apple pie with those bags for recyclables.
But it was touches like these and keyboardist Zach Gill dancing during parts that did not require his nimble fingers and bass player Merlo Podlewski's white rapping and the billowing pakalolo clouds and the bouncing beach balls and the standing-swaying-imaginary-fly-swatting women swooning whenever Johnson was projected onto the large screen behind the stage that helped create the intimacy that is often lost at large concert venues.
And don't discount Johnson's guitar work and mood-altering vocals. However, he got the biggest cheer of the night not from one of his tunes but fellow hearty-party maker Steve Miller's "The Joker."
Midnight tokers unite!
Supporting act G. Love and his band sounded muddy at the start, but once the board operator caught up with the musicians, the first pot cloud swept over the crowd and the bandleader with Garrett Dutton on his birth certificate had worked up a sweat knocking his knees together while sitting in a chair, the funky-croony-hip-hop concoction played just fine. "Come Back to Me" had the audience and drummer Jeffrey Clemens hopping. Meanwhile, the older parents and youngish grandparents here could appreciate the band taking ownership of Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," which shifted into a hillbilly hootenanny stomp three quarters in. G. Love's Philly funk influences gurgled to the surface in "Can't Go Back to Jersey."
Sadly, fucked up 405 traffic prevented a listen to the opening set by Malaysian-born OC transplant Zee Avi, but she came out for a pleasing duet with Johnson on "Breakdown"--with her "Just You and Me" inserted in like dueling "Row, Row, Row Your Boats." Tiny Avi resembled large Paula Fuga's action figure as the two sang side by side during Johnson's rousing "Better Together" encore. By then, Fuga had already proven she has amazing pipes.
Critic's Bias: The headliner's mellow music routinely plays in my backyard through poolside speakers on lazy afternoons.
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The Crowd: As Maude Flanders put it when asked on The Simpsons what kind of ice cream she wanted, "Unflavored for me." These people are the reason Macy's is always out of plaid shirts.
Overheard in the Crowd:
"God I love this guy."
"I'm scared of music."
"I'm really enjoying the show."
[After Johnson had made several references to his mother being in the crowd, he began a tune by saying, "This one goes out to my . . . uh . . ."] "MOTHER!" [Actually, it was dedicated to Johnson's cousin.]
"That's what I'm talking about. NICE!"
"I didn't think it would be this long."
Random notebook dump: Thirteen fricken dollars for a Belgian white ale!?! Is Irvine on the Euro? For thirteen fricken dollars for a Belgian white ale, I expect to be served by a Belgian.
You and Your Heart
Holes to Heaven
Sitting Waiting Wishing
To the Sea
Medley: The Horizon Has Been Defeated, Badfish/BossDJ, Inaudible Melodies
Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology and Red Red Wine
Breakdown and Just You and Me (with Zee Avi)
Turn Your Love (with Paula Fuga)
Country Road (with Paula Fuga)
Give Voice (with Paula Fuga)
Rodeo Clowns (with G. Love)
Staple It Together (with G. Love)
At Or With Me
Do You Remember
My Little Girl (solo)
Better Together (with Johnson's full band, Zee Avi, Paula Fuga, G. Love and his full band)