There was no light show. There were no special effects. Occasionally a roadie would switch out an acoustic guitar for an electric guitar. That’s about it, and this was just fine.
At first glance when when Jack Johnson took the stage at the Paramount Theatre Wednesday night you might not have even noticed that the stage was set up for a full band. It was just him, the guitar and the stage.
He spent the first half hour letting the crowd dictate the set list. He took requests in the form of shouts from the audience. It appeared he might have not even written a set list. He would start each request with, “That’s a good one,” or “Okay, I can do that.”
He kicked the show off with “Do you remember?” (2005 “In Between Dreams”) and followed it up with requests for “F-Stop Blues,” “Good People” and “Tomorrow Morning.” The show meandered on like you were sitting around a campfire on the North Shore of Oahu. It wasn’t until he started in on “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” that you noticed the entire band kick in.
Jack Johnson is among a wave of artists who established themselves in the last decade and are now able to tour and are play music on their own terms. Johnson’s music works as good inside as it does outside. The stop at the Paramount and this theater tour is a break of the giant outdoor festivals, and may have been a bit of a shock for the fan who needs the outdoors and a lot of room to move to enjoy the music.
At times the crowd seemed confused as to whether they could stand up and dance. Johnson caught on to this and started announcing permission to stand up and sit down. After a flurry of upbeat songs off “Brushfire Fairytales” (2001) — including “Flake” and “Bubble Toes” –, Johnson announced that the crowd could be seated for some slow songs coming up.
The show lasted well over two hours and was energized by Johnson’s longtime sidekick Zach Gill of the Brushfire records family. Gill is a masterful multi-instrumentalist of everything from keys to upright piano to accordion.
Other highlights of the show were medleys that included covering the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” and the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.”
Johnson finished with an encore of “Angel,” “Better Together” and “Home.”
Evan Semón is a Denver freelance writer and photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.