[Live Review] JACK JOHNSON (Sydney)

Sydney Opera House
Thursday November 30, 2017 :

The Sydney Opera House has to be the most unique and beautiful venue for a gig that I can imagine, and I was lucky enough to attend the first of Jack Johnson’s 3 night run on the steps. As great as the tunes were it was hard not to be distracted by the sights. I’m sure the bands felt the same.

Jack’s label-mates BAHAMAS started things off with the same kind of laid-back jams you’d expect from a band on his label, which is exactly what everyone wanted to see tonight. There were a few moments where the band let loose a bit louder than I expected which was more than welcome. Great musicianship and some nice melody. Well worth checking out again when they visit in the future.

There was a few gasps in the crowd when JACK JOHNSON limped on stage with a knee brace, and opened with the old “do you want the good news or the bad news” line…..followed by “I messed my knee up pretty good, but I don’t use my knee to play guitar“. Jack had charmed the crowd before playing a single song. The irony wasn’t lost on Jack when he opened with ‘Sitting, Waiting, Wishing’, which he plays live with a different groove to the studio version.

In what was an interesting setlist choice, he followed this with 2 of his most well-known songs, ‘Taylor’ and ‘Flake’. I supposed when the entire set is a laid-back affair you don’t need to worry about tiring the crowd out too early. Nevertheless it was a nice surprise before Jack settled into playing some new material. New album All The Light Above It Too has some better tunes on it compared to some of the “same-same” feel on it on Jack’s last few albums, and it was a pleasure to hear it brought to life. ‘Sunsets for Somebody Else’ has become one of my favourite of Jack’s tunes and should join his catalogue of classics. Jack’s backing band are also exceptional, with special mention to longtime keyboardist/vocalist Zach Gill who is a great talent in his own right.

Jack opened the floor for requests, and politely knocked back playing ‘Better Together’ so soon since “all the couples will kiss and go home“. Surely not the first time Jack has had to state this. By far what makes seeing Jack Johnson is the up close and personal vibe he creates, with gentle banter and stories behind the songs making it feel like he’s playing in your backyard. The best example of this was Jack superbly fumbling the lyrics to ‘No Other Way’ which somehow made it more endearing.

Jack strapped on an electric and played some of his louder tunes, and the band got a chance to let loose. ‘Good People’ sounds better loud and Jack played something on his guitar other than Barre chords which pleased the music-snob that is this reviewer. He (of course) returned for a few acoustic tunes solo to finish the night, and as predicted there was many a kiss to be had with ‘Better Together’.

As if this dude hadn’t done enough with his performance to let us know he’s the man your wife would rather be with, Jack has also made a point of making sure this tour is completely sustainable and eco-friendly. There was a designated area to learn about a few initiatives in helping to save the environment given it’s own space in the venue, and he’s gone out of his way to reduce this tour’s impact on the environment. Say what you want about Jack’s music, but it’s his likability that is his real selling point.

Reviewer : Matthew Glen
Photographer : Bobby Hendry



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