Category Archives: Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson SLC concert review, part II: A man and a guitar

The following is part II of my review of Jack Johnson’s Salt Lake City tour stop last Monday, August 18.  Scroll down to read part I.

Jack Johnson performs at a foreign venue that I can neither spell nor pronounce. He's wearing the same t-shirt he wore at SLC, though. (photo courtesy

The weather for Jack Johnson’s Salt Lake City concert last Monday couldn’t have been more perfect.   It was one of those evenings that remind me why I love summer so much- clear and calm, comfortably shrouded in the day’s surplus heat.  My 1-year-old daughter, Miss Ella, was enjoying making her blanket-to-blanket rounds.  The sun began to set as Rogue Wave finished up their set, and Miss Ella and I decided to make a diaper change run.  The couples around us agreed to guard our spot from the roving masses of Johnny-come-lately’s trying to squeeze into every minute gap between blankets.

Of course finding our spot again was like trying to find your car in a Disney World parking lot, only without the help of cute character-themed row markers.  The lawn by this point was one giant patchwork quilt of individual blankets occupied by a largely homogenized Pac-Sun clad crowd.  Scanning the crowd from the top of the lawn was pointless.  We had to weave through until we saw a recognizable landmark, in this case the intricate dreadlocked hairdo of the lady sitting behind us.  There was no way we were leaving the blanket again that evening.

After about 30 minutes, Jack Johnson appeared on stage to raucous applause.  The band (Jack, drummer Adam Topol, keyboardist Zach Gill, with ALO bassist Steve Adams filling in for an absent Merlo Podlewski) launched into an upbeat version of “Hope,” a song from Sleep Through the Static that is among my least favorite Johnson pieces overall, but one that actually made for a decent opener.

Without a word by way of introduction or greeting (Johnson is notoriously shy), He followed up with classics “Flake” and “Taylor.”  Since these two tracks are early works, it was great hearing them with Zach Gill’s background vocals and keyboarding flare (the animated multi-instrumentalist was added to the lineup in 2005).

Jack infused “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” with an old Cars tune and followed it with a nicely orchestrated version of “Sleep Through the Static.”

Most everybody on the lawn remained standing for the duration of the set list.  Miss Ella was happy to sit in my arms and sing and dance along to the music.  While she seemed to love every song, she recognized and jived most to the ones we play in the car often- especially “Upside Down” from the Curious George soundtrack.  Even the magic hour of 8:30 pm (her bedtime) did little to deter her participation, though her dancing after that point was punctuated with an amusing delirium.

Jack is, to be honest, a bit stiff on stage.  For me, this is part of his appeal.  The former pro-surfer first picked up the guitar out of the desire to simply write campfire songs for the beach.  In interviews, he still mentions his amazement at his shotgun journey from “man and a guitar” to stadium headliner.  Despite his superstar status, Jack enters each stage looking like a college grad coming into his first job interview.

His muted exuberance and the extreme mellow nature of his tunes sometimes tempts his audience to treat some of the performance as background music.  This routine- and I argue fully expected- aspect of the concert continues to baffle reviewing media reps attending their first Jack Johnson show.

Of course I’m one of those fans that’s fascinated with every part of the performance, from the way Adam switches between percussion sets to Zach Gill’s smooth, almost jellyfish-like playing style.  Another appeal is Jack’s polite demeanor and clean persona (curse words are nowhere to be found in either his music or his performances).  Jack has the refreshing ability to be at once family-friendly and fully mainstream.

Jack’s satisfyingly long setlist included almost every song on Sleep Through the Static and most of his staples, and was spiced with an all-accordion take on Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (cleverly titled “The Devil Went Down to Bavaria”) by Gill.

He ended the concert like he began his career- alone and accoustic- a man and a guitar in a five song encore that included introspective pieces like “Times Like These” and “Home.”  Miss Ella stayed true until the end, applauding each song by wiggling her hands and yelling “Heyyyy!”

When the stage lights went down it was time to face the infamous USANA traffic jam.  Miss Ella fell asleep on my shoulder as we walked toward the exit to meet my wife.  Another summer night, another great Jack Johnson concert.  The usually maddening bottleneck was a little lighter than usual, and Miss Ella slept contentedly as we navigated the sea of break lights under the same aloha spell that laces Jack Johnson’s music.


Jack Johnson SLC concert review, part I: Setting the stage

Jack Johnson (photo courtesy

Jack Johnson (photo courtesy

When I heard that Jack Johnson was coming to town, whether or not to go see him was never a question in my mind (even though I was disappointed by his latest album). The question was with whom? For reasons I’ll never comprehend, concerts simply aren’t my wife’s cup of tea. Outdoor concerts are even less so.

So since going to a concert alone just seems sad, I needed to find a companion for the evening. I asked my wife if it was ok if I took a date. She consented.

My date was a fine young lady- pretty like my wife, sweet, and a little bit younger. She doesn’t mind that I have a gut and am a little dorky. I see her every day, but because I’m so busy, I was excited to finally have a little one-on-one time with her.

Believe it or not, she had never been to a concert before. But she’s a huge Jack Johnson fan- mostly from his soundtrack work. She’s not a high maintenance lady, which made things much easier for me- lawn seating and a sharing a concession stand combo meal would be A-OK with her. Best of all, I was able to get her in for free.

The concert was great, and though my date actually nodded off a time or two and tried to steal another girl’s nachos, we had a wonderful time. I realized early in the evening that keeping her happy was the key- something Jack Johnson and his openers handled for the most part.

I just had to keep her diaper dry and her pacifier handy.

My wife dropped us off at the front gate and ran through a quick checklist to make sure Miss Ella and I were all set for the event:

Sippy cup?  Check.
Baby doll?  Check.
Baby backpack?  Check.
Pebbles hairdo and SpongeBob eyes?  Check.

I wasn’t surprised to see several parents with their children, given the popularity of Johnson’s soundtrack to the Curious George movie, but my 1-year-old Miss Ella might have been the youngest.  We spread our blanket on the lawn and were early enough to get a decent spot (as far as lawn seating goes).  Then we  bought some popcorn, which Miss Ella attempted to share with everybody we passed.

The first opener was British groover Dale Halstead, who got little reaction from the audience.  Granted, Halstead’s set was pretty unremarkable.  But I’ve never seen such an apathetic response to any first opener.  I kinda felt sorry for the guy.  It might make him feel better to know that Miss Ella happily danced along with each of his songs.

Halstead was followed by Rogue Wave, a band I was somewhat familiar with but not impressed enough to invest in.  Their live performance, however, made me rethink.  Miss Ella and I loved Rogue Wave.

It’s too bad the majority of the lawn audience decided to arrive and start finding a spot right during Rogue Wave’s set.  A plethora of latecomers tried to fill the small spaces between our blanket and the others around us, so we all made a pact to place jackets, bags, and various other items in those spaces to deter the vultures and buy us some extra space later.

Miss Ella isn’t shy, and she began networking the minute we sat down.  She’s only been walking for two weeks, so the sloping lawn proved tough to negotiate.  Nonetheless, she was able to waddle onto the blankets of everybody around us- much to the initial chagrin and eventual delight of our neighbors.

Her to-do list was the same for each adjoining blanket: 1) lay down to test the softness, 2) show its occupants her baby doll, 3) study their faces, and 4) drop hints that she’d like a bite of their pizza or a sip of their Coke, 5) come back and check in with Dad, 6) move to the next blanket.

This was especially entertaining with the young couple to our right.  It was obvious that this was the “big date,” the dealmaker.  Ella trudged over to their blanket and plopped down next to the girl, whose motherly instincts immediately kicked in, quickly deflating the romantic mood her date had been so diligently crafting.  She held Miss Ella and tickled her face for several minutes.

The guy was annoyed, but he understood well that revealing his displeasure would be disastrous.  So he sat there with a pretend smile, waiting for Miss Ella to get bored and move on.  Somehow detecting all this, Miss Ella gave him the same look she gives me after spilling a bowl of Spaghettios on the floor- the look that says, “Sucks to be you, huh?”

The boyfriend-to-be was not amused, but the rest of us could hardly contain our laughter.

Click here for part II of this review.


Posted by on August 20, 2008 in Jack Johnson, Music, Random Musings