With a slew of laid-back tunes perfect for those craving the start of summer, singer-songwriter Jack Johnson moved a sea of fans who made the pavilion look more like a beach party than a concert last night at Blossom.
Johnson, on his first North American tour since 2014, looked pleased to be back on the road throughout a two-hour set of songs spanning the five solo albums he has released since debuting with Brushfire Fairytales
As the sun set on a pavilion lawn so densely packed as to be made standing room only, Johnson took the stage with his touring band, a four-piece that featured the multi-talented Zach Gill on a variety of instruments. Gill, who recently made time to speak with Scene, released his second solo album, Life in the Multiverse
, on June 2.
The band opened with one of Johnson’s earliest hits, “Flake,” and it didn’t take long before people of all ages, from toddlers to elders, found wiggle room to dance or bump one of a few multi-colored beach balls that bounced throughout the lawn. Even in areas where ticket-holders were afforded seating, Johnson’s effortless play and charisma kept fans on their feet.
That easy-going attitude permeated from Johnson and his band mates as they cruised through a career-spanning range of the songwriter’s work, from chart-toppers – fans went particularly wild for “Banana Pancakes” and “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” – to deeper cuts such as “Tomorrow Morning” and “Inaudible Memories.” The show in Cleveland was just the band’s second stop of the tour, but the guys sounded as tight as if they were just wrapping it up.
As a guitarist, Johnson has mastered the “skanking” style of guitar playing – think the chippy, upstroke-heavy sound you hear in ska or reggae. Paired with his mellow croon, Johnson’s style, particularly on the covers of Sublime’s “Badfish” and Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World” that were sprinkled throughout the set, brought a sun-drenched, surf-like atmosphere to Blossom’s Midwestern locale.
The colorful and lively decoration, featuring lanterns strewn around the stage and a large fishing net that hung from the ceiling above the band, helped set the mood. Johnson paused mid-set to explain the significance of the lanterns, stating that they were filled with bits of plastic that had washed ashore in his native Hawaii. The environmental activism even extended to the venue's vendors as plastic cups were hard to find in favor of aluminum cans, which Johnson said he had requested.
After the show’s main set concluded, it didn’t take much thundering applause from the audience before Johnson returned to the stage with his acoustic guitar for a brief solo encore that included one new song: a hiking-themed tune that Johnson sheepishly debuted after making sure it wouldn’t be a “bummer” for the audience.
The crowd’s voracious response, which likely awoke a few of the youngest, sleeping members whose bedtimes it was long past, proved fans didn’t mind at all, and it carried through “Better Together,” the show’s final number.
Opening act Bahamas, the stage name of songwriter Afie Jurvanen, set the tone for the night with an hour-long set of slow jams. Filled out with four other members, Jurvanen’s music – which occasionally sounded inspired by Johnson’s, whose record label, Brushfire Records, both acts belong to – was particularly powerful on tracks such as “Lost in Light.”