Jason Mraz’s seventh Manila show: How did he do?

Paul John Caña

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Jason Mraz’s seventh Manila show: How did he do?


'You won’t hear any complaints from me if he keeps coming back here every year,' writes PJ Caña

What else can you say about an artist you’ve seen perform live 6 previous times? 

A lot, apparently.

Jason Mraz traveled for the fifth time to Manila and played his seventh show overall in the country last night at the Araneta Coliseum. The venue wasn’t as full as the last time, but it was still pretty packed. There was no doubt Filipinos have developed a kinship with the 37-year-old singer songwriter. 

The thing about Mraz is that he mixes things up at every show. He’s played solo acoustic sets, jammed with old buddy Toca Rivera, and went all out with a full band, and every time he manages to make it seem natural and real – no onstage fillers, pyrotechnics and dazzling effects.

This time, Mraz’s cohorts were the 4 ladies of pop-rock outfit Raining Jane. Mai Bloomfield, Becky Gebhardt, Chaska Potter and Mona Tavakoli have been associated with the musician since opening for him for a gig in 2006. “We’ve been a band since 1999,” they told the audience. “We were students from UCLA. We played music as a hobby. In 2004 we quit our jobs and bought a van. Our parents are still angry about that.” 

“He’s a very powerful man,” Tavakoli said about Mraz. “He affects the ladies.”

Mraz’s disembodied voice blared over the Big Dome at a few minutes past 8 pm, introducing the band. The girls played a few songs, but audience excitement swelled expectedly when it was their turn to introduce the man of the evening. Mraz began with “Life is Wonderful” and ingratiated himself even more with the crowd by singing “Life is Mabuhay” in one line.

Wearing a long-sleeved pullover, jeans, sneakers, and his trademark fedora, the artist looked pretty much the same as always. The addition of the all-female band seemed to create a different dynamic, though; he seemed more playful and chatty. “It’s always been a dream of mine to be in a girl group,” he said at one point. 

Photo by Ferdie Arquero

The new album is called Yes! and was entirely co-written by Mraz and the band, save for one cover song. The most passionate of fans sang along to the new songs, including “Hello You Beautiful Thing,” “3 Things” and “Back To the Earth,” where he casually spoke of his campaigns for the environment and living a sustainable lifestyle. 

But it was the older songs, naturally, that got most of the Coliseum crowd grooving. When he did “The Dynamo Of Volition,” from his third album We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. he admitted that he had no idea what the song was about. He followed that up with the fun and snappy “Make It Mine.” 

“People peg me as a happy person, but the truth is I work hard at it,” he said. “When I’m sad that’s when I write a happy song. Oh hell no! I’m gonna make my own rainbow!”

While the individual band members were on a platform lined up from left to right in the beginning, the 5 of them came together front and center during the middle of the set. Gebhardt switched to an upright bass while Tavakoli strapped what looked like a wearable djembe on and they all sang to a single, old-fashioned microphone, turning the cavernous Coliseum into an intimate, coffeehouse-like venue, just like he did during his last show in Manila. In previous interviews, Mraz has said that he prefers the scaled-down, more intimate appeal of smaller venues, but organizers obviously needed to accommodate as many fans as they could for a one-night-only show. This is now the third time that Mraz has played at the Big Dome.

I’ve said before that Mraz possesses the best set of vocal pipes I’ve heard of any singer-songwriter, and while there were a couple of minor slips that evening, I still think this to be true. 

His range is incredible and he can easily convey joyous and celebratory as convincingly as tortured and pained. He’s a great guitar player and musician, and an instructive songwriter, but clearly his voice is his best instrument; when he sings, everything else fades into the background and you can’t help but be enraptured. 

Photo by Ferdie Arquero

This was exactly what happened when he did a stirring, blow-the-roof-off rendition of “Mr. Curiosity,” an old song from his second album Mr. A-Z which fans know as “the one where he sings opera.” I think that’s pretty much self-explanatory. Yes, the live Mraz is just as amazing as the one you hear on record.

After a quick intermission, (“inner-mission,” he said), the group came back to do “Love Someone,” “Only Human,” and “Long Drive.” Mraz performed a slow version of his very first mainstream single (and a personal favorite) “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” before launching into “93 Million Miles,” “Shine,” and arguably his biggest hit, “I’m Yours.” That ended the regular set, but he didn’t have to make the audience wait long for the obligatory encore. 

Once again the band gathered front and center with a single microphone for “I Won’t Give Up,” followed by the final song of the evening, a cover of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” which appears on the latest album.

It’s possible that Manila was just another check mark on Mraz’s tour calendar, but for the thousands of fans who shelled out good money to see him, it was an evening well-spent. The fact that he’s been here so many times before makes me think that he feels a deep sense of connection with Pinoy audiences, and fans undoubtedly feel the same way, too.

You won’t hear any complaints from me if he keeps coming back here every year. – Rappler.com

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