Jack Johnson @ Kings Park and Botanic Garden
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Absence can certainly make the heart grow fonder and for fans of Jack Johnson, that was definitely the case after a stretch of five years since the strumming sensation out of Hawaii zen-mastered us with his gentle soft rock. In one of the most uniquely bold and spectacularly laid-back performances to touch down on West Australian soil this year, Jack Johnson took to Kings Park and Botanic Garden on Wednesday for an evening under the stars.
The breezy tropical tunes of Bahamas set the tone for the evening as the Canadian solo artist coaxed the crowd with smooth jams. Sitting on the grassy hill facing the stage, exclamations of awe could be heard flowing from surrounding audience members inspiring a sense of the type of feels this artist was generating. Highlights from his latest album Earthtones included Way With Words, which oozed soul as he sung the lyrics “I am one man, I can do anything”. The bluesy sounding No Wrong had people rocking back and forth on their picnic blankets and folded chairs with a bevvy in one hand as the other earnestly clapped at the side of their leg to the tempo. Whether you were familiar with his tunes or not, Bahamas had the audience hooked with his crooning voice that crashed down with beautiful lazy vibes.
The audience were a buoyant bunch for a Wednesday evening, ranging broadly in age but all seemingly lapping up the outdoor festival vibes that the venue emitted. With wine sold by the bottle, plenty of coffee stalls for a caffeine kick, and wide open spaces to boogie and sway or casually take in the chill vibes — the set up at Kings Park was picture perfect.
Emerging on stage with a grin plastered from ear to ear, Jack Johnson greeted his audience as though they were old friends. Pointing to a knee brace, he apologised for having to be seated whilst reassuring us that he didn’t need his leg to play guitar. Surrendering some of his best known hits from the get-go, he launched immediately into Taylor and followed up with Sitting, Waiting, Wishing. Dedicated fans found familiarity within a set that was satisfyingly rich with old favourites, while the singer-songwriter also invited us to explore the music off his latest album All The Light Above It Too, released this year. The lightweight acoustic tunes subtly rebooted the mind as though by merely listening, the world could be simplified into song.
Jack Johnson’s music holds an inescapable place in both my heart and memories. From long stinted family drives, to my first strums on the guitar — a skill that sadly did not have a soaring future — his easy going tunes have an everlasting nostalgia. What was so pleasantly surprising for a fan of JJ, was witnessing him engage so enthusiastically and willingly with the audience. Acts of kindness and appreciation throughout the night showed that multiple millions in album sales have not made an arrogant man. One of the best displays was when he took the time to dedicate a rendition of Happy Birthday to a girl named Laura and brought her along with four of her friends, up on the stage to sing Flake and pose for a selfie.
He gave equal share in the credit and limelight to his band and was authentically humble throughout the show. An important stand-out moment of the evening was when his pianist and old college mate Zach Gill unleashed a voice that made the crowd erupt (not to mention his mouth-activated mini piano; cool?!)
Johnson’s trinkets of backstory behind songs gave an intimate depth and dimension to his quirky rhymes and soothing tunes announcing, “I write break up songs for my friends… and love songs for my wife, of course.”
Closing the evening with Better Together, the sense of unity and joy that swelled from both the stage and audience was tremendous. It was an uplifting evening of music and story telling.
Photos by Linda Dunjey