Sunday, 6 July 2008

Jason Mraz / Gideon Conn @ Manchester Ritz July 1st 2008

Review and Photo by Charlotte Lunt

Jason Mraz is a surprisingly little-known artist hailing from San Diego. Currently embarking on a world tour, only a handful of nights in the UK were all that could be afforded, fortunately one of these was local.

Joining him as support was Manchester based Gideon Conn, who bore such a resemblance to the Mraz himself that many in the audience were wondering exactly who they were watching. Conn, a singer songwriter, delivers simple yet compelling melodies, touching on observations of life, love and politics. With a naive manner and what appeared to be genuine surprise at the reception he was receiving from the appreciative crowd, Conn provided a strong quirky set as a superb entrée to the night.

Once on stage and in his trademark headgear, Mraz delivered his unique fusion of jazz, hip hop, folk, country, and pop with a pared down version of his usual band. He kicked off with some older songs such as ‘The Remedy’ which was merged seamlessly into a sing-a-long cover of ‘Wonderwall’ and then into ‘Live High’ from the new album, before (literally in some cases) the audience were hit by the brass section that was hiding amongst the crowd.

The following hour and a half provided the opportunity for the audience to be acquainted with a wide range of back catalogue songs, as well as hearing compositions from the new album ‘We sing, we dance, we steal things’. Moving effortlessly through a set which offered re-interpretations of older songs, adding a reggae vibe to some, and rapping in others, Jason switched between stripped down and acapella versions of songs to plush ear-ringing performances with his 7-strong band the ‘Take It Easy Buddies’.

Throughout the evening Mraz used the opportunity to showcase his talents as a superb wordsmith and master of metaphor, being able to sing about serious issues with a dash of frivolity, or blatantly with tongue in cheek. His singing styles are as diverse as the obvious influences within his music, whether agile freestyle rap or soulful tenor, betraying his classical training. Marrying these skills with the rapport and familiarity between the musicians on stage gave the performance a voyeuristic quality, and at times there was the feeling that we were watching a group of friends jamming in the comfort of their rehearsal rooms rather than watching a performance.

Winding up the evening with a second encore including ‘Geek in the Pink’ and ‘No Stopping us’, the final song saw the singer take to the stage alone to play ‘You and I Both’ taken from his debut album, a song about friendship reminiscing and moving on, providing a suitably optimistic end note, reminding the audience that he is not only a talented writer and musician but also a gifted performer.

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