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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 6 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 27
Jason Mraz serenades beautifully in Hawaii
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Jason Mraz serenades beautifully in Hawaii

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

JASON MRAZ
WAIKIKI SHELL, HONOLULU
July 1


Jason Mraz and Hawaii are a perfect combination. His music - laid-back pop tunes with light folk and reggae elements plus humble lyrics that often combine natural scenery with personal relationships - offers just the right tonic for carefree island dwellers.

Mraz performed to a large audience last weekend at the Waikiki Shell, a premier outdoor concert venue located in the state's busiest tourist district. The concert was an add-on date to his Asian tour leg, which saw the Grammy winner appear in South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Singapore, to name just a few stops on his itinerary.

Opening with 'Everything Is Sound' from his newest album, Love Is a Four Letter Word, Mraz set the tone for an evening of soothing, refreshing tunes that seemed as organic as the palm trees swaying gently under a dark blue sky freckled with stars. Joined by a full band that included a three-piece brass section and five or six other musicians, he played an effortless version of 'The Freedom Song' that was highlighted by a splash of reggae.

'I just brushed my teeth, so I'm feeling pretty fresh,' said Mraz to a crowd that continually squealed and screamed throughout the two-hour concert, an abbreviated version (if you can believe that) of his standard live show.

'Bella Luna,' a track from 2005's Mr. A-Z, was absolutely gorgeous under the moonlight and featured a subtle, slow horn solo. 'Butterfly,' from 2008's We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things., got many fans in the audience busting a move. Mraz introduced it by telling everybody, 'I won't be offended if you get up and do a nasty dance to this song.'

Appearance-wise, Mraz is overdue for a trip to the barber. His bushy hair puffed out from both sides of his head, squashed by a funky hat, and his facial hair added years to a guy who recently turned 35. But he's still in great shape, as his slim jeans and fitted long T-shirt made evident.

Comically, Mraz took responsibility for his wild locks. 'I'd like to apologize for my hair,' he quipped. 'It's in the middle of doing something.'

Images of women (and a cute dog) were flashed on a screen behind the drum set during 'The Woman I Love,' while photos of Mraz's grandfather (I'm guessing, but not certain) were visible during 'Frank D. Fixer.' A backup vocalist, who at times played violin or shook a tambourine, filled in for Colbie Caillat on a peachy rendition of 'Lucky.' 'You and I Both' was cradled by a flute and light drum taps.

'This is the part of the show where I eat cantaloupe, and make it a spiritual experience,' joked Mraz as he put away a piece of melon.

'Living in the Moment,' the best number of the evening, and 'I'm Yours' closed out the main set. The audience was invited to sing along to the latter, and they did so eagerly and boldly. Surprisingly, the crowd sounded like a rehearsed background chorus. For an encore, Mraz performed a solo version of '93 Million Miles' with his hat now off and was then rejoined by the full band on 'I Won't Give Up.' He exited the amphitheatre giving the audience the Hawaiian shaka sign.

Jason Mraz has really matured into a quality performer. He's always been entertaining, yet these days his vocals stand out better than before with a more soulful energy on stage that feels pure and genuine. He's older now, and personal maturity factors into an artist's growth. But his song arrangements are improved and more memorable - 'The Remedy (I Won't Worry)' sounded new all over again after 10 years of being played around the world hundreds upon hundreds of times.

I say this honestly: there's no finer place to see Jason Mraz than at the Waikiki Shell. One reason is the lush tropical setting, the other is that his Hawaiian fans are so much fun to be around.

The Honolulu appearance was partially recorded for an upcoming episode of Opening Act, a TV series on the E! Channel that allows an unknown artist to open a concert for a marquee talent. Mraz chose a young man named Jono (if I'm spelling it correctly), who hails from Colorado. While Jono possesses a strong voice, his selected songs for the show were unappealing and seemed a mismatch for his gospel-like pipes.

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