I looked around at the people in attendance at Budweiser Stage, née Molson Amphitheatre, and noticed all kinds, men, women, kids, couples, old, and young. The sun was setting, and the night was chilly by the lake. It was the perfect setting for the music of opener Bahamas and Jack Johnson. As I waited for the show to start, I noticed many ads for various environmental non-profits, fitting given Jack’s background as an activist.
In any case, Bahamas started promptly at 7:30, a 45-minute set that encapsulated the beach atmosphere of both acts. Afie Jurvanen’s backing band showed off a great soft rock style with catchy riffs. Afie’s vocals were consistently powerful, and at times spoken-word. The backup singer’s additions allowed for plenty of harmonies as well. Bearded and fedora-clad, he was full of charisma in his interactions with the crowd, eliciting big cheers from their hometown.
They ended their set with a few songs from their upcoming album, out sometime this summer. The first, “No Wrong” was smooth with a patient bassline, while the other, “Bad Boys Need Love Too” was reminiscent of an R&B slow jam before giving way to blues rock.
Jack was on at 8:45, after a little intermission. No one would accuse Jack of being an ace songsmith, but his music was perfect for the night, as he owned the surf rock vibe smooth, easy nostalgic jaunts. Adorned in a loose-fitting t-shirt and shorts, he looked the part too. The audience knew every word, and was standing for essentially the entire last third of the concert, so it was obviously a success. His strong storytelling during these songs accentuates the easy listening and relaxed ambiance.
Throughout the performance he switched between electric, acoustic and ukulele, while his long-time collaborator Zach Gill showed off serious vocal chops as well as playing the accordion and the melodica. He also brought in Afie for a few songs. Jack was engaged and on time, with little banter during, letting the music do most of the work. That is, outside of a bit where he had a beach ball distance kicking competition with his bandmates in between songs, to the delight of the crowd. It was a carefree moment largely emblematic of his music.
The only issue with the night, coming from someone who’s not a superfan, was that some of the songs tended to blend together after a while. With little in between, this became tiring. There were occasional moments to break it up, however, like a rousing accordion solo from Zach. Jack ended the night with two solo songs, stripped down to just his voice and an acoustic, fitting for the surfer-cum-rocker.
Note: All pictures taken by Hung Le.