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Friday, November 21, 2003
Mister Arizona keeps me up late

Liv and I went to see Jason Mraz last night in the Mountainlair ballrooms. It holds about a thousand people, and I don't think they sold half the tickets. No seats, just a big dance floor, and actually a few chairs in the back. Tristan somebody opened, a solo singer/songwriter with her guitar. She was not unpleasant to listen to, though the songs were musically immature (one groove per song, no bridges, very few chord changes, lots of harmonic repetition, Alicia Keyes-style melodies with no hooks). Lyrically I heard lots of I's and me's, the hallmark of a newbie, dontcha think? She played a long set, and Jason came out and jammed with her on one tune, which improved it dramatically. Liv, on the other hand, really liked her and bought her CD.

Then Jason comes out with a 6-piece band, him switching between electric and acoustic, a lead guitar player, electric bass player who also played a hollow-body fretless, drumset, handdrums (mostly conga)/shaker player who also laid in luscious high harmony and a little scattyrap, and a keyboard player (sporting a real Rhodes, some kind of Ensonique board, and a Korg brain) who strapped on a banjo at one point.

Jason has a very smooth and lithe set of pipes, his vocals stole the show. His vocal range and flavor reminded me of Neil Sedaka, but his style ranges from much swing smooth to white bouncy rap to shiny vocal pop rock. He also did a fair amount of straight-ahead scat singing, and some audience-repeat scatting. Cute little dorky dude with a ballcap on crooked, somebody gave him a "somebody loves you in WV" hat, and he put it on for the rest of the show. The whole band donned WVU football jerseys for the encore, and he liberally threw in WV references throughout the evening.

[I'm being attacked by crazed ladybugs as I write this. Normally we co-exist fairly peacefully, but I vacuumed a bunch up at my house, and apparently negatively-impacted my ladybug kharma. Back to your regularly scheduled programming. . .]

Great show, lots of good tunes (I was only familiar with 2 of his tunes from radio, The Remedy, and Curbside Prophet, so no setlist from me on this one). Lots of 80's references, and he actually covered I Can't Go For That (Hall & Oates). The handdrummer sang super-tasty high 3rds and 6ths throughout, definitely never overdoing it, making harmony a welcome occasional treat.

The band didn't initially particularly stand out, but as the night progressed, each player got a chance to do it up a bit, and each revealed a more developed musicianship than I got in my first impression. I don't know if it was rig, room, or soundman, but the bass sounded pretty shitty all night long. When he played this big hollowbody fretless, it sounded best, but most of the night the bass was very flabby and slightly too far forward in the mix. The guitars and drums sounded good, and the keys were mostly synth sounds and cut through nicely.

Overall, a great show. Add in that fact that tix were only $24, and my drive home was a mere 20 minutes, and I have to give the night a rousing fuckin A. If Jason Mraz comes to your town, take a night off and go.

permalink posted by cat 8:17 AM

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Mister Arizona keeps me up late