Written by Daniel Barker
Aug 18, 2010 at 08:00 PM
Image The phenomenon known as Jack Johnson was halfway thru his first world tour and had arrived in South Texas here at The Woodlands to bring his message of responsibility to another sold out audience. The man that introduced the modern surfer mindset to the mainstream brought his 100% non-profit tour to town in support of his 5th album, “To The Sea” released on June 1st, 2010 on his own label, Brushfire Records recorded at his own solar powered studios. At age 35 and light-years away from the Spicoli stereotype, Johnson embodies the best his generation has to offer. Young adults healthy in mind, body and soul pushing for change toward a better Earth in every aspect of their lives every day.

Anyone who has ever bought lawn tickets at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion knows the deal you make with the weather gods. The prayers were not being answered this night as the upset skies spoke of things to come as I made my way into the post-Ike renovated complex. It had been quite a while since I had made it out this far north for a review but the place never looked better. A larger covered area with more spacious seating made for a more comfortable arrangement than I remembered. Despite imminent rain, the eclectic crowd was eager to see the man that was so elusive to catch live.

The core group of musicians that JJ brought along with him tonight was Adam Topol-drums, percussion; Merlo Podlewski – bass; Zach Gill – piano, percussion however various artists would come to stage including a Hawaiian woman, Paula Fuga and members of the opening band ALO.  The first opener this night, G. Love, is partly responsible for Jack Johnson being here tonight and usually G Love would join JJ on stage for some great times each night on this tour. Not tonight. GL came out first to the surprise of the early arrivals for a short street musician inspired set before explaining he had to fly out immediately due to his daughter having an emergency appendectomy. During G Love’s farewell song the skies opened up and things on the lawn got interesting very quickly.

The rain had subsided but the thunder and lightning show continued on as Jack Johnson took the stage wearing a Texas Surf Rider Foundation T-shirt. First off, I am thinking “Where is the guitarist?” surely JJ cannot pull that off. Boy was I wrong…The acoustic riffs you expect but a majority of the newer albums have electric all over them and Johnson held it down all night by himself. However, the magic of the man’s popularity is in the mellow voice and sharp lyrics. Admitted stage fright victim, JJ blew thru “You and Your Heart”, “If I Had Eyes”, and “Taylor” without taking breath. Nerves dampened, the Hawaii native had to comment on the evening being so sultry with patented 100% August humidity.

I spent the better part of my teens hanging around bonfires at night trying to live the beach dream and I have to say that JJ captures that spirit when he is solo on stage. He shared with us the first song he ever learned to play, Jimmy Buffet’s “Pirate Face at 40”. The crowd at a JJ show is so laid back it is hard not to smile and feel good. Not to mention, this guy has catalog man…The sing-a-longs are one after another…”Bubbly Toes”, “Brushfire Fairytales”, “Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology”, “Banana Pancakes”, etc, etc…Is is fair really??

This small group was crafty as well, busting out the accordion, ukulele, wind organ and variety of Hawaiian instruments. I am sure at some point G Love’s absence was noticeable to the tour personnel but we had no idea what, if anything, we were missing. I like to think that it may have added some freshness to this night here in Harris County. The band played 27 tunes in 2-1/2 hours for a cause they believe in with all their being. The final song of the night brought everyone back onto stage for a wonderful moment of everyone singing “Better Together”. Until next time, I will see out supporting live music.