The gorgeous Saturday evening of September 10 paved way for the swarms of Jack Johnson fans filling the Festival Pier in Philadelphia. With an average age of the audience equaling roughly 17, the beer in the hand was more obsolete than the drugs in the lungs. The energy and the immaturity brought me back memories of my first Dave Matthews concert. That is until the music started.The surfer gone singer Jack Johnson recently released his third album making way for his third year of touring. The once relatively unknown singer has burst out of the select indie market and onto the mainstream highway. From an album perspective, the music hasn’t wavered; the compositional, carefree sounds are evident on each of the studio releases. However fame and unfailing musical success created an expectation that wasn’t met.
The first blunder of the evening, which was no fault of Jack Johnson, was the venue. The main area, which is more or less one giant parking lot, has a capacity of roughly 5,000. Longer than wide, the layout faux paux is an absence of speakers further back. When up close to the stage, one sees the artist well and is blasted by music and swarming fans rekindling a love-in, and as you move back to gather composure and space, you can’t hear the music. The outcome seemed to be a heard of minors surrounded by a ring of post-college fans. There was pressure to join the mass in order to enjoy the music. One possible solution to this dilemma is to perform in a bigger venue, yet I don’t think there is enough of a product to fill a stadium.
The set list was solid, and with guest appearances by G Love and opener Matt Costa, one would would think this is an amazing show, and I’m positive many loved it. My feeling is that there was no flow. It was track after track with little improvise – much of what I could listen to in the comfort of my own home. There were covers (Madonna, The Beatles, etc.), and there were playful tracks like “Plastic Jesus” leading to “Fall Line,” but there was no scheme or structure. For instance, the show did build to an elongated entrance of G Love, but rather than end the show on that excitement, the encore was entirely acoustic. This totally works for some shows, but Jack Johnson built too high and ended too low, causing too many people to leave early. The other major failure was the lack of jam. He’s a surfer in Hawaii – who could be more chill than that? It just never showed through. It turns out he essentially uses the same set list from show to show with very little differentiation. I guess my feeling is that for one to sell out a big venue, you need people to travel, and to get people to travel you have to put on a show of a lifetime. Something incredibly unique about it that you don’t find on albums, or at the show you saw the week before. I’d personally like to see him in a small intimate venue where he can relax and embrace the surrounding and interact with the audience that is there at that moment.