Saturday, March 18, 2006

Review of Jason Mraz's concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, March 17 2006

I'm on a timer here 'cos I have to drop my mum off at church then rush to work later.

Oh boy... where do I begin? :)

I remember how, after the show ended, I grappled with my attempt at reshuffling my personal choices for Top 3 performances thus far, and finally decided that it's time to do away with that restriction and just classify them all into different categories, 'cos I've seen way too many great shows in this lifetime.


And the dude was just 10 feet away, right in front of my 3rd row centre seat. *thud*

The Music

If you're not familiar with Mraz's albums, I strongly suggest you drop by a CD store the next time you're able, sample both and, hopefully, purchase them in the same sitting.

He writes and arranges his own compositions, and catapulted to stardom with his debut effort, Waiting For My Rocket To Come, released in 2002. The famous tracks You And I Both and The Remedy ( I Won't Worry ) sealed his reputation as a force to be reckoned with, and his latest, Mr. A-Z ( 2005 ), only illustrates this fact even more brilliantly.

Jason opened the show with a breath-taking rendition of Plane ( off Mr. A-Z ), beginning with a soft, relaxed whistling routine then sliding smoothly into a leisurely guitar riff, later joined by percussionist Toca Rivera on the bongo drums, before launching into whispery vocals.


Those first few minutes were only a mere taste of what was to follow. The next 1.5 hours were pure bliss, with gorgeous acoustic versions of Wordplay, Geek In The Pink, Life Is Wonderful, Please Don't Tell Her, The Boy's Gone, You And I Both and The Remedy.

He also sang perhaps 4 or 5 songs I'd never heard before -- whether it's new material or covers, they were all amazing and captivated the full-capacity audience from start to finish.

However, he almost brought the house down with a medley of 2 covers, kicking off with Talking Heads' Our House, during which he got the audience to do a little singalong, later transitioning seamlessly into the Black-Eyed Peas' Where Is The Love? The latter sounded 100 times better than the original ( especially when you consider what poor 'live' performers the Peas are -- I've seen enough of their sub-standard work on awards shows to form an opinion ). Jason took a bass-heavy hip-hop piece and transformed it into a real treasure -- quiet, introspective, almost like a lullaby. And when we all hummed along to the catchy chorus, it wasn't a shout-fest, but a hushed, religious murmur. This song has never sounded more beautiful than it did at that very moment.

THIS, my dear readers, is what truly great music is all about.

The Man

In person, Jason's thin and pretty tall ( slightly less than a 6-footer I reckon ). Dressed in a simple plain white T-shirt, well-worn jeans and sporting a greenish baseball cap, he nonetheless enraptured his 1,500 fans.

His skill on the guitar is mind-boggling at times, and from my vantage point, I could see all 10 of his fingers doing their thang on the strings, woohoo. John Mayer and Eric Clapton, eat your hearts out. :)

And his voice! I'd already heard his 'live' performances on the radio in the past, and was expecting a good showing vocally, but he completely blew all that into smithereens when he delivered a pitch-perfect 90-minute showcase, despite the absence of any breaks and maybe 3 swigs from a mineral water bottle during the entire course of the concert.

His studio recordings on the albums almost always feature a full band, so you may not totally appreciate the crystal clarity and power of his pipes. But last night, with the excellent acoustics of the Concert Hall and the bare minimum of just a guitar and bongo drums, Jason's vocal gift took flight, right up to the rafters and beyond.

Like he sang in one sweet little ditty about wanting to visit outer space, those spine-tingling glory notes took us all up to the stars. Whether he was belting out a rock number or exercising his divine falsetto, this guy could do no wrong. I felt tears sting my eyes. And my heart skipped a beat. Yow. :)

Last but not least, there's the humour! There were SO MANY gems I can't possibly recall every single one at this time, but if I remember any I missed out they'll get posted stat. Of course, if you were there too and have any to add, please do so in the comments section!

Example #1: During Our House, Jason asked the audience to sing the chorus. After a couple of trial runs, he requested that only the ladies sing, but got a bashful, lukewarm response. He thanked "the four of you who represented everyone else", then asked the guys to take over. Huge difference, which was hilarious ( I could hear all the dudes around me belting their guts out ), after which Jason quipped, "AND NOW THE TRANSGENDERS!" No-one knew how quite to react, but percussionist Toca gamely opened his mouth, and the crowd roared. :D

Example #2: His witty impromptu lyrics, the earliest of which included a change in the words to Plane right at the end. He started to sing "Gotta get myself off the floor / Gotta get to Singapore" to loud cheers of appreciation. He loves to start and end each song with a little improv routine, be it some funny humming or cute verses or one-liners. While singing "It's gonna be a long, long time", he suddenly told us "It's true, this could be the entire show. We can do this for the next 90 minutes. It's REALLY going to be a long, long time!"

Example #3: Somewhere in the middle of the show, Jason remarked how beautiful the Concert Hall is, and how he felt they should've dressed a little better for the gig. He then said he wanted to sing in a more appropriate fashion, and went straight into a very competent operatic falsetto, complemented wonderfully by Toca. I loved it!

Example #4: His anecdote about the food. You see, someone sent a hamper of food to Jason's room Thursday night, and he claims he didn't know who was responsible ( although I'm dead sure it's one of the organizers ). He said he didn't eat it, but "I slept with it. Placed it on the bed next to me, put a blanket over it and whispered into the cake..." What a riot! :D

Of course, Toca was the perfect sidekick. All dreadlocks and toothy grins, he punctuated key moments with a trademark decrescendo-ing guffaw ( HA-ha-ha-ha-ha ), initially not even speaking a word, until Jason commented that "Laughter is the official language where Toca comes from". Heh heh heh!

The Audience

I loved the crowd! Mixture of young ( teenagers to undergrads ) to older ( yuppies, Mediacorp artistes ) and much older ( my mom was with me, more on her comments later ).

Very enthusiastic, very into Jason's music ( hence those singalongs were fantastic, especially on You And I Both -- we sang the whole chorus while Jason just stood back and soaked it all in, eyes closed, a whimsical smile on his face, before whispering ( I heard it! Did you? ) "That was nice." at the end of our bit. AAAHHHHH :))

Lots of cheeky greetings and even cheekier questions. Rapturous applause. At least 2-3 standing ovations. What a night!

Famous faces spotted in the crowd: Taufik ( our Singapore Idol ) and Adrian Pang.

The Autographs

Many many many thanks to the lovely lady who helped me yet again in my quest to get a signature from the divine Mr. Mraz. No autograph signing session post-concert, so I will treasure this forever.

My Mom's Review

Believe it or not, she LOVED the show! She isn't actually a fan, but was extremely taken with his music, and loosened up in the 2nd half, during which I spotted her laughing really hard whenever he cracked a joke. She rates it at least 9/10, but still prefers Michael Buble ( of course :)). However, she also thinks Jason and Taylor Hicks ( the American Idol 5 finalist ) are very much alike -- passionate about their craft, great showmanship, effortless at capturing audiences.

So there you have it. :)

The Esplanade has done well this year, with the likes of Kings of Convenience and Jason Mraz in the line-up. Am greatly looking forward to the next Mosaic Music Festival. And I hope Jason will return to Singapore very soon at a much larger venue, so more can experience the magic for themselves.

I actually sneaked about 5-6 photos on my digital camera. Prohibited, yes, but c'mon, you can't expect die-hard fans in the first few rows to NOT want pictures of the dude, can you? Considering the fact that a meet-and-greet wasn't even organized?

Will post 1 or 2 pictures at a later date. Stay tuned.

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