Jack Johnson Brisbane Review @ The Riverstage

Published in Music News  
Jack Johnson played The Riverstage (Brisbane) 3 December, 2017. Jack Johnson played The Riverstage (Brisbane) 3 December, 2017. Image © Charlyn Cameron
I was a preteen when I first heard Jack Johnson; rattling through my Dad’s CD collection and blindly scooping ‘In Between Dreams’ from the pile.

Face-up on the floorboards, head directly beside the stereo, I was astounded one artist had produced so much memorable music.

Jack Johnson’s tracks are universally nostalgic, one of his most memory-inducing, 'Taylor', opening his Riverstage performance in Brisbane (3 December).

Despite the sea of age-varying fans and string-along friends, long-term listeners, newcomers, parents and children, the iconic riff of ‘Taylor’ seemed to strike a chord of recognition with every, single, audience member.

Click here to view more photos from the show.

‘Sitting Waiting Wishing’ was a pleasantly surprising follow-up song, another well-known release surrendered early. The crowd continued to surf the wave of warm and fuzzy familiarity when ‘Flake’ surfaced next, a clear indication that he was here to play the favourites.

“I’ll tell you a secret about this song,” he smirked. “I only wrote it to score an extension on a paper in college.” The first taste of a fact I’ll rarely dispute during live shows: most music is best received with a personal story attached to it.

As he chimed the words of ‘Inaudible Melodies’, I couldn’t help but picture Jack Johnson circa 2001, charming his professors with quirky rhymes and lulling classes over with soothing vocals.

Jack Johnson.2Jack Johnson - image © Charlyn Cameron

He politely asked for the audience’s permission before showcasing new track ‘My Mind Is For Sale’, a shining example of his lyrical strength and proof of zero creative rut. ‘In Between Dreams’ staple ‘Good People’ made a notable impression, his honest composing ringing clearer now than it had growing up.

‘Tomorrow Behind’ the singer described as “an apology song for his girlfriend, wrote while stranded in another city”, the intimate explanation adding a layer of empathy to his music. ‘Bubble Toes’ proved to be a fan favourite, the crowd shamelessly reciting the ‘la da da da da’s'.

The spotlight shifted to the piano player during ‘Wasted Time’, who belted out beautiful solos, vocal and instrumental. Jack then delved into a soulful rendition ‘No Other Way’, before exchanging his guitar for a ukulele during ‘Breakdown’; the audience was rewarded with the well-awaited ‘Banana Pancakes’ afterwards.

The piano accordion in ‘Shot Reverse Shot’ delighted the crowd, but failed to mask its strangeness as a closing track choice.

Though unsurprisingly, Jack returned to the stage within minutes asking listeners for encore recommendations. “This is the part of the performance I leave up to you,” he announced. “What would you like to hear?”

Sweetheart love song ‘Do You Remember’ was selected first, followed by bouncy 2013 release, ‘Tape Deck’. Fans very willingly obliged as he asked them to whistle along to ‘I Got You’, ‘Better Together’ lastly asserting its status as a poetic and warming pinnacle of Jack Johnson’s lengthy career.

I was immensely curious about multiple aspects of the show pre-gig; how would Jack utilise the stage and space? What kind of band would accompany him? And how many members? Would he rework the classics or focus on pushing the recent releases?

Jack Johnson.3Jack Johnson - image © Charlyn Cameron

It didn’t take long to recognise the redundancy of those queries and instead ask myself, 'why did I bother questioning a Jack Johnson performance?'. The stage and space were used minimally, light show simplistic; the band was tight, albeit few musicians; and the classics weren’t changed, nor was the set-list inundated with newbies.

In a way it was exactly as expected, though in no way predictable. For starters, I didn’t expect the set-list to be quite so saturated with his early work, nor so seemingly spontaneously put together.

And not due to lack of care, quite the opposite; it almost felt as if Jack had specifically tailored the song choices around the Brisbane crowd, instead of relying on a rehearsed order. I didn’t expect his lyrics to be quite so gripping, either; it’s easy to accuse an easy-listening musician of writing words that are simply ‘pretty’.

Though laced within the laidback demeanour he exudes is plenty of excellent wordplay, creative rhymes and surprisingly touching sentiments.

And lastly, I certainly didn’t expect the strong level of camaraderie among the crowd. Such an assorted mix of people, few I knew, few my age. Yet sitting, singing, surrounded by fellow fans was what most distinctively drew the live show apart from his recordings.

During the gig, the only thought more comforting than the preteen memory of worshipping ‘In Between Dreams’, was the certainty everybody around me was as equally consumed by their own slice of Jack Johnson nostalgia, each one of us still questioning just HOW one artist has managed to produce so much memorable music.

Click here to view more photos from the show.

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