The world is a stressful place these days, with hurricanes, North Korean aggression, racism, protests, and less than inspiring Presidential tweets… Every once in a while, you need to just let it all go for an evening. What better way to do that, than by spending a few hours on a cool night under the stars enjoying the laid-back tunes of Hawaiian singer-songwriter Jack Johnson. Having just released his seventh studio album, All the Light Above It Too, earlier this month, Johnson extended his summer tour into the fall with a string of new dates that included a stop at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park in Raleigh NC, where we joined a sizeable crowd intent on getting lost in the acoustic melodies and chill vibes.
With the sun quickly setting as fans found their way into the amphitheater, what immediately stood out were the casual stage decorations that included large stings of lanterns that extended out over the crowd, creating an intimate campsite feel to the venue. Coming out first and setting the tone for the evening was Canadian musician, and frequent Feist sideman, Afie Jurvanen, who performs under the moniker Bahamas. Joined by four bandmates, Bahamas played a set of melodic and often soulful songs that shared a sonic texture with Brushfire Records labelmate, Jack Johnson. Jurvanen’s personable demeanor and lighthearted delivery created a relaxed atmosphere, and Bahamas’ set proved to be both ultimately satisfying as well as the ideal musical appetizer for what was to come.
After a relatively short break, Jack Johnson took the stage and looked out over the crowd with a big grin on his face. His good mood and easy-going attitude was infectious and quickly spread through the crowd. Johnson, backed by his long-time touring bandmates, Zach Gill on keys, Merlo Podlewski on bass, and Adam Topol on drums, played through a lengthy 25+ song career-spanning set. New album highlights included “My Mind Is For Sale,” “Shot Reverse Shot,” and “Love Song #16,” while crowd favorites like “Better Together,” “Bubble Toes,” “Good People,” “Tomorrow Morning,” and a fun take on “Banana Pancakes,” that featured an accordion solo by Zach Gill, also featured. Extending the party atmosphere, Johnson threw in some fun cover songs like Sublime’s “Badfish,” and The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Foxy Lady.”
Later in the show, guests John Craigie and Nick Forster joined the band for “Big Sur” from All the Light Above It Too, a song Jack introduced as being about playing music with friends. Johnson also invited John Craigie out to tell his story of meeting a man in a bar in New Orleans who claimed that Bob Dylan had stolen a song from him. Sensing an opportunity, Craigie entertained the man and immortalized his story in a hilarious and poignant song which he proceeded to play called “I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man.” After bringing the main set to a close to resounding applause, Johnson returned to the stage with his acoustic guitar and played a few solo songs before ending the encore with the full band.
Jack Johnson’s show was a communal experience. It felt less like a formal concert, and more like hanging out around a campfire with a group of friends, singing songs and telling stories. It was intimate, eclectic, heartwarming at times, and most importantly it was fun. If you get the chance to catch Jack Johnson live… Go. These days we all need to find time for a bit of fun.
Jack Johnson + Bahamas @ Coastal Credit Union Music Park – September 29th 2017