Jack Johnson charms Comcast Center crowd

A review of Jack Johnson at the Comcast Center on July 10, 2010

, Editor-in-Chief

A decade ago, nobody would have expected Jack Johnson to be headlining amphitheaters across the country. The fact that the singer-songwriter from Hawaii is doing so this summer and in support of an album that debuted atop the Billboard charts a few months ago, is even more surprising. But when he hit the Comcast Center in Mansfield on Saturday night, it became perfectly clear why everyone seems to love Johnson these days.

Johnson is a surfer turned rockstar and he delivers a vibe that is much more the prior. His music reflects his lifestyle: easy-going, simple, loving and humble. It’s a formula that he never compromised nor has he ever needed to because that’s his attraction. He’s likable. I mean how can you hate a guy who pledges to donate 100% of all his tour proceeds to charity (and buries the fact in the bottom of a press release) or has been named the most green-friendly artist in music. And that mantra comes through in his songs too, infectious tunes about life and relationships that everyone can relate to.

So for 90+ minutes on Saturday, Johnson and his band delivered them all for the jubilant crowd that was whisked away by the sweet sounds and soothing imagery that served as the stage’s backdrop. At one point in the show, he said, “All the love songs are for my wife and all the break-up songs are for my friends.”

Johnson kicked off the show just as he does his brand new album with “You and Your Heart”, the first of six tunes from To the Sea, his fifth studio effort released last month. On the album, Johnson plugs in a little more than his prior releases and it was refreshing to see that in concert too. While the opener is the gem of the new materiel, there were a few other standouts, notably the title-track and “At or with Me”.

Of course, he delivered all the fan favorites too like the trio of “If I Had Eyes”, “Taylor” and “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” which were delivered in sequence at the top of the show to the delight of the crowd. Johnson finds strength in simplicity but it can also be his weakness in the live setting. Thankfully, as the show began to fall into a lull and get samesy, he changed things up and brought some guests on stage to reignite the show with more flavor. Johnson picked up a ukulele and invited Dan Liebowitz of the band ALO to join him on acoustic guitar for “Breakdown” and then slide guitar for a revitalized rendition of “Flake”. He then invited Hawaiian singer Paula Fugo on stage to help bring the island vibes for a pair of songs, first her song “Country Road” and then his new tune “Turn Your Love. But it was Philly’s G. Love that brought the most explosiveness to Jackson’s set including a rousing take on the soon to be hit “Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology” and “Rodeo Clowns”, which the two collaborated on for G. Love’s 1999 album Philadelphonic.

Ending the main set with “Good People”, Jackson returned for a four song encore. He started solo, delivering “Do You Remember” and “Angel” on acoustic guitar before the band joined him for “Constellations”. It all came to a close with Jackson, his band and all the guests leading a sing-along of “Better Together.”

It wasn’t the best concert of the year but it was just the right recipe for a good summer night out. And with the ticket prices going for a good cause, fans couldn’t help but feel they got their moneys worth.

Prior to Johnson’s set, his pal and one-time Boston resident G. Love warmed up the crowd with a pleasing set. With his band (Special Sauce) taking a break from touring, Johnson’s set was a solo acoustic affair. However, there was no shortage of excitement as he kept the energy high with his signature brand of blues and funk on acoustic guitar and harmonica. Early arrivals were treated to a set from ALO.

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