Jack Johnson and Jamtown Deliver at Hollywood Bowl

With five guitarists spread across the front line, Jamtown was rivaled only by Eagles the night before at Dodger Stadium who sported six guitarists. The older demo appreciated the swirling Jamtown instrumental arrangements reminiscent of The Allman Brothers. The younger demo found an excellent opening act. Lush harmonies and stacked acoustic guitars reflected the next generation of the California sound that was birthed in the nearby hills. “Fool in Love” captures best the band’s strengths. The core of Jamtown is a collaboration of the trio of Grammy nominated musician Cisco Adler, G. Love and Donavon Frankenreiter. The band appeared recently nearby at Arroyo Seco Weekend and will be touring next year, and if their Hollywood Bowl debut is any indication they will soon be making headlines.

Jamtown

Jack Johnson has gently slipped into a vaunted position of being envied by men and women, his laid back surfer vibe is infectious and aspirational. The loping island rhythms were a perfect mid-summer soundtrack at the ever-delightful Hollywood Bowl.

Johnson’s lyric that brought the biggest cheers? “The songs on the radio drive me crazy.”

That was until he riffed on Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” a song he could have easily written.

Johnson featured a few new songs from his next album All The Light Above It Too, due in September. The best was “My Mind is For Sale,” a sly dig at the current leader of the Free World.

Tiki lamps stretched across the first 20 rows of the Bowl, a clever effect I first saw decades ago at The Roxy with Chris Isaak, another excellent surfing troubadour.

Johnson had banked plenty of goodwill before and after the start of the Bowl gig, so when he floundered through an ode to his daughter seemingly for the first time, the audience laughed along with him until he gamely finished the song.

Jack Johnson on sea and on land

That classic oceanic instrument the ukulele was leveraged to great effect in “Breakdown.”

Johnson’s band was well-oiled, providing perfect accompaniment and mostly staying out of the way. Long time compadre Zach Gill on keys provided great melodic structure, with solid rhythmic grounding from Merlo Podlewski (bass) and Adam Topol (drums).

Johnson brought back G. Love for a couple tracks, including “Rodeo Clowns.” A select segment of the audience recognized Johnson’s clever cover of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World” with its tropical island reference:

When I was a young boy
My mama said to me
“There’s only one girl in the world for you
And she probably lives in Tahiti.”
I’d go the whole wide world
Go the whole wide world just to find her

“Banana Pancakes” reminded me of weekend mornings cooking for my family, with my daughters, my wife and I all enjoying the Curious George soundtrack and other Jack Johnson songs. It is a beautiful thing when there is that much harmony among musical preferences across generations.

Jack Johnson’s gentle and evocative voice makes him a James Taylor of his generation.

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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