I've been a Mraz fan for almost a decade. It's a little crazy to think of where I was in my life when I first heard his beautiful voice and silly lyrics. Although he was talking about some rather serious themes going on in his own mid-twenties life at the time as a young teenager I could still relate, a sign of overall good music. To think that I'm still creating goofy dances to his music so many years later proves that he has stood the test of time and is worthy of all the praise I can hand out.
Unfortunately, with that said, I was not as impressed with his concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center last Saturday night as I should have been. His set - not including encore - was a mere 60 minutes and while I typically refrain from opinions on set lists, I couldn't help but notice that his was lacking in terms of the better songs. While Jason Mraz is getting bigger as a name I sometimes wonder if his songs are getting a little weaker. It's difficult to say that for two big reasons - I love his new album and he's one of my favorite artists - but comparing this new, highly produced Mraz to the Mraz of yore there's really no comparison at all. I understand musicians striving to reach large audiences and play stadiums but to me, Mraz has never been one of those types. His music is greatest in small nightclubs with an acoustic guitar and a small backing band.
Seeing Jason Mraz on the lawn at the very large arts center sounded exciting at first but the reality was a little dimmer. There were many very young Caucasian, upper middle class, FM radio high school girls filling the crowd. By many I mean 99.9%. When he got on stage (after one of the openers K'Naan was completely ignored - partially because no one cared and partially because he was boring), his music catered to this audience, one that doesn't fill the full quota of his fans. I'm of two minds with this: I LOVE that Mraz is finally getting the recognition he rightfully deserves and is able to play these great venues but what about the veterans of his music? What do we get? Not everyone who enjoys his music is a 17 year old hippie wannabe with a deep love of Hollister (not that there's anything wrong with that). I don't want him to be one of those artists that completely forgets they have a great catalog of music to choose from for their live act in order to satisfy a new breed of fan. Mraz has been making music for a huge portion of his life not just the last two years. The very commercial "I'm Yours" song doesn't encompass Mraz's whole talent. This was of course the only song everyone in the audience sang along to. What about "Sleeping to Dream", "After an Afternoon", or my favorite "Childlike Wildlife"? There wasn't even much of his signature scatting as far as I can remember.
On a positive note, the arts center sound system, of which I have always been a huge fan, made Mraz's voice sound better than ever. It is this angelic voice that sets him so far apart from the rest of his contemporaries. Whether the music moves you or not, Jason Mraz is one of those vocalists that could sing anything and make it sound beautiful. He has a natural, peaceful aura to him that jives well with the hippie resurrection that's happening right now within the youth culture but also this old-soul vibe that allows him to cover songs like "At Last" and not make a fool out of himself along the way. There is no denying Mr. Mraz is one of the best live vocalists I have ever heard. I genuinely wish he would've sang more songs that displayed this beautiful talent.
Huge standout songs: "Coyotes", "Butterfly", "The Dynamo of Volition", and host Bushwalla's fantastic "Fall Through Glass". Overall, very good not great but I had a lot of fun anyhow and will surely see him many more times to come.
(photo courtesy of Flickr member)