Jack Johnson transports tropics to Lakewood


Jack Johnson, G. Love, & ALO
Aaron’s Amphitheater at Lakewood
Atlanta, Georgia
August 20, 2010

On the heels of one of the hottest summers that the South has seen in quite some time, Jack Johnson and his traveling crew of Brushfire record label signees (G. Love and ALO) rolled into Atlanta. Apparently Mr. Johnson stores the tropics alongside his merch because as he arrived so did a thunderous shower fit for viewing from a balcony in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Yes, it was quite the storm that greeted the roughly 18,000 congregants who had come to take part in the relaxing sounds of Johnson. As fans gathered at the entrance, lightning struck a section toward the back of the lawn, shutting down the ticketing system and keeping fans at bay outside the venue due to will call dilemmas and liability concerns from Live Nation, whose supposition must be that it is okay if somebody gets hit by a bolt outside the venue as opposed to inside.

alo1.jpgMeanwhile, the thorough soaking continued. Thankfully all that had gathered seemed to be prepared as most were already slipped into their beach-ready flip-flops and other suitable attire. Aside from the weather and delays, even a consummate curmudgeon like Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David would have a hard time being disgruntled for too terribly long of a spell – after all, they were all about to be inside a Jack Johnson gig.

Many Brushfire enthusiasts remained close to (or in) their vehicles rather than braving the storm, and many had yet to break away from their tailgate tent city party when ALO took the stage. This was unfortunate, because ALO is definitely a band that consistently rises to whichever occasion they are participating. However, the lack of thickness in the crowd allowed those who had broken away from their pre-show sipping and valiantly trudged through the puddles to witness ALO in their more natural, intimate setting.

Though the set was less heavy on extensive jamming and more lyrically focused, the band stayed true to their definitive sound through the effect-loaded acoustic guitar of Dan Lebowitz. There could not have been a better way to begin an evening whose central theme was mellow and happy. The smiles exchanged throughout the set seemed to give way to the lead role, particularly between Lebowitz and dexterous key and accordion play from Zach Gill, the latter of which would later return to the stage as a member of Jack Johnson’s company. Just as ALO departed the stage, so did the rain depart the evening.

glove1.jpgGarrett Dutton III, better known as G. Love, is no stranger to the Jack Johnson family; Johnson initially came to the forefront through a guest appearance on Love’s 1999 Philadelphonic track, "Rodeo Clown." In a strange twist of fate, it is now G. Love who is signed to Johnson’s record label.

By the time Mr. Love (minus Special Sauce) and his enviable array of guitars took the stage, the venue that had been somewhat of an echo chamber previously was slowly becoming as dense as ticket sales indicated it should be. G. Love strolled through a set of slack blues numbers from crowd pleasing favorite “Baby’s Got Sauce” to a unique, slide-heavy and crooning interpretation of Robert Johnson’s "Walkin Blues."

Throughout his set, Love displayed a unique Memphis-meets-New Orleans-meets-Philly manner that only he possesses. Providing a nice change of pace from the usual G. Love & Special Sauce set, his solo set-up allowed him to be the absolute focal point, and it seemed to encourage crowd acknowledgement. As the set wrapped, the “rest-easy” in the congregation grew…Coronas with limes were abound in preparation for the main event, and suddenly linen shirts on a rainy day did not seem so out of place.

jj1.jpg When one considers Jack Johnson as an artist, it is also important to consider him as a human. With the release of 2010’s To the Sea, fans prepped for a tour that would support it. They were not surprised when Johnson once again decided to continue his charitable tradition from 2008’s Sleep Through the Static tour, wherein 100% of tour profits were used to establish the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation.

On the current tour, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation is offering direct matching donations to All At Once partner non-profits in each city on the tour. To fund this, Johnson is again donating his entire personal 2010 tour profit to the cause.

As Jack casually ambled onto the stage in Atlanta, it became clear that he possesses something that may be uniquely his own, in that there is no apparent distinction between Johnson the human and Johnson the artist. Though the crowd was obviously enamored by him, the smile that graced his face was one of grace and gratitude, not granduer. It was from this spirit that the set would be delivered.

On any given night, the differences from show to show are slim and primarily of a song-placement nature. As with every recent stop, the opener was “You and Your Heart.” The track, which also serves as the opening number from To the Sea, was well-placed in the set. Through a series of repetitive hooks, the song possesses familiarity even if never heard before. Further, the musical lulls that showcase the talent of the band provide an outlet for crowd participatory approval. This set the stage for a mass of energy to be released in spite of the song’s lack of anything essentially intense. The crowd lapped it up: the ladies screamed, and did so in the arms of their gentlemen who approvingly kept tap with their feet and leading sways.

jj2.jpgAs the set progressed Johnson provided everything the horde of attendees longed for, taking everyone on a virtual tour of his now decade-long career of hits. There was nothing definitively special or unique amongst any of the numbers played. Most stayed true to their original composition, but that is exactly the sound that this crowd looked to experience.

The audience sang along in unison to tunes like 2001’s smash hit “Bubble Toes,” which has taken on a whole new meaning as we are now all too familiar with what tar balls are, courtesy of BP. But Tony Hayward was a far cry from anyone’s conscious thoughts as evidenced by the pure delight on each and every observed attendee’s face as they La da da da da da’d their way to a fantasy world of margaritas, boogie boards, and hard bodies.

ALO’s Dan Lebowitz eventually made a return to the stage alongside Paula Fuga, who provided a much needed feminine presence through her beautiful lyrical ability on her original song (that Johnson makes a guest appearance for on her latest record) “Country Road.” Lebowitz would remain for “Flake” and managed to add something peculiarly grand to the chart topper through the most jamming moments of the evening, with a face melting slide solo that came on the heels of the familiar lyrical refrain.

The sit-ins would continue as G. Love subsequently readdressed the audience for a trilogy of “Rodeo Clowns,” Staple It Together" (with ALO’s Steve Adams on vocals,), and “At or With Me.”

For the encore, the stage became a ceremonious collaborative effort as ALO in its entirety rejoined the stage along with Fuga and G. Love for a grand send-off that pleaded for togetherness, leaving the crowd as a united front while they made their way out into what was now the contextually cool Atlanta evening.

Click the thumbnail to view more shots courtesy of Honest Tune Live Music Editor David Shehi