Home arrow Tales From The Moshpit arrow Jack Johnson; G. Love; ALO @ Lakewood Amphitheatre, 08/20/10
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"I wasn't happy with five number ones and all that because I knew it wasn't the quality of work I was striving for."
--Rodney Crowell
Jack Johnson; G. Love; ALO @ Lakewood Amphitheatre, 08/20/10 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dugan Trodglen   

Jack Johnson is a victim of his fan base. I'm not saying he deserves enshrinement in the Singer/Songwriter Hall of Fame, just that when folks with good taste rip on Jack Johnson, there can be a tendency to badmouth his fans more than his music. His hardcore fan does tend to be the fratboy type, never looking to be particularly mentally stimulated by music, but still thinking they are by what is often banal and superficial. Now it's true that most musicians with awful fans are pretty awful – I think Jimmy Buffet helped pioneer this phenomenon – but there are exceptions, and Jack Johnson is one. He's...fine. Closer to mediocrity than greatness, maybe, but I don't find anything there to particularly dislike. This was all reinforced the other night at his Lakewood concert.

First of all, weather conditions (heavy rain) dictated I wear shorts and flip-flops and that is just not me, so I was pretty well indoctrinated before my wife and I even walked in. With JJ's overtly green-friendly image, I was expecting more of a hippy contingent, but no, it was mostly the backwards cap crowd. I was also surprised to know we were all the way up in the pit section, a standing room only area right in front of the stage. Great way to see the show, of course, and also good for getting an idea of the give-and-take with his biggest supporters.

The Animal Liberation Orchestra opened, fronted by the guy who turned out to be JJ's keyboard player (Zach Gill). They're a groove-oriented band with prog and jam tendencies, though fortunately they played nothing close to what I call "port-o-potty jams" (I think the term defines itself so I won't). ALO are a four-piece with guitar, bass and drums accompanying Gill, who sometimes played a Wurlitzer electric piano, which is always nice. He and the guitarist were plenty good on their instruments, although the guitarist seemed to have to watch his hands noticeably every time he took the lead. He played an acoustic through enough effects to effectively be an electric – an odd approach that worked well enough. It's pretty tough to get to into a rock band whose frontman is standing behind a keyboard, but hey. There are a lot of bands ol' Jack could have picked that would have had me clawing at the edge of the pit to get out, and ALO didn't. 

And what's this? Before Jack comes out we have to watch G. Love? Maybe he's matured a bit since he first came on the...what's that? He hasn't? Might be worse than ever? Ah, nuts. My wife says there is a fine line between style and shtick. Well, Mr. Love falls on the side of that equation that contains the word "shit" jumbled up. His straight-up blues weren't too bad, but oh, his blues/rap hybrids were. And then he did what could have been an impression of earnest songwriter open mic night but it wasn't an impression. 

In between acts there was a bunch of the aforementioned "Green" ideology on the Jumbotron. A list with photos of the various charities in the little "Village Green" located on the concourse, messages like "thanks to everyone who carpooled or biked to the show" and stuff like that. Yes, it borders on the insufferable, but Jack Johnson seems to avoid vilifying, which is the most poisonous and credibility-diffusing problem with the environmental movement. And apparently 100% of JJ's tour profits are going to charity. I wouldn't be surprised to know that there's more to it than that – that he's pocketing something, somewhere, out of all of this – but I do get the impression he is backing up his message with his actions.

So... his show. It was him, Gill, and a rhythm section. The drummer looked bored as hell, but the bass player looked like he knew he had an incredibly easy job, and was reveling in it. He was fun to watch. Jack Johnson has only as much charisma as his audience grants him – it doesn't seem to be inherent. He's a very humble, genuine performer who would probably be doing this same set at some little bar in Hawaii if he hadn't hit the big time. Humility earns points with me, at least in certain types of music (I'd hate to hear a humble metal band). It was a very crowd-pleasing set, and the crowd was ecstatic. They love this guy. When a beach ball came on stage he kicked it off and his flip-flop went with it into the crowd. He asked for it back – and they gave it to him! I was pretty impressed. 

Okay, I'm almost done so here's where discussion of Jack Johnson's music has to begin. He's mellow. There, I nailed it. Easy like Sunday morning.
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