Jack Johnson – Villa Maria Winery December 10, 2017

After weeks of clear skies and hot weather, the clouds gathered and rain threatened just as Jack Johnson was scheduled to perform at Auckland’s Villa Maria Winery. But tragedy was averted as the clouds parted and a good time was had by all. Some folks having, perhaps, too good of a time.

By the time I arrived at the winery Toronto-based opening act Bahama and New Zealand’s own Black Seeds had sufficiently warmed up the crowd. I dare say that the copious amounts of wine being ingested during the two sets also contributed to the festive atmosphere.

Perhaps sensing that the good weather might not hold, or that half the audience might pass out, Johnson and his band took the stage about 15 minute before their scheduled 8pm showtime.

The crowd was ready to party from the get-go, and the 42-year-old Hawaiian was more than happy to oblige with a solid stream of hits beginning with Taylor, Sitting, Waiting, Wishing, Never Know and Flake.

Johnson even threw in a few bars of Sly Stone’s If You Want Me To Stay during Never Know. It was a feature he returned to several times over the two-hour show…spicing up his own songs by interjecting a verse or two from classics by Led Zeppelin, Steve Miller or Bob Marley.

Not that he needed to do much spicing up. This was a crowd that was not only well-oiled, but well-heeled in Johnson’s music. They knew all the words to just about all the songs. Johnson tentatively performed a couple of tunes from his new album, All The Light Above It Too, including the anti-Trump My Mind Is For Sale…”I don’t care for your paranoid us against them walls”…and later, the lighter Big Sur, which featured members of Bahama back on stage to lend a hand and a voice.

Despite it being a small band…keyboard player Zach Gill, drummer Adam Topol and bass player Merlo Podlewski…they made a big sound and the good vibes rippled through the crowd. Johnson himself flubbed a few guitar lines, but the rest of the band was flawless. To be fair, Jack was wearing a brace on his leg, having twisted his knee, and so may have been in some pain.

Nevertheless he soldiered on, and at the end of the set, brought back The Black Seeds to jam on a mashup of Staple It Together and Sergio Mendes’ Mas Que Nada, with Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love tossed in for good measure.

I was situated in the front row of seats and witnessed several incidents of drunkenness that came close to turning violent. This tendency to binge drink at these events is both disturbing and tiresome…and embarrassing if you happen to attend with someone from overseas. I could see that security was doing their best to control the situation, but still, things could have easily gotten out of control.  Sadly, I don’t see this behaviour changing any time soon, as it seems to be the accepted norm.

I moved further back during the encore and thoroughly enjoyed Jack’s mini solo set including Do You Remember and his tribute to the old Red Headed Stranger, Willie Got Me Stoned And Stole All My Money.

The band returned for Better Together, with the crowd happily taking over lead vocal duties for the last verse, and hopefully all got home safely.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:

Jack Johnson set list:

  1. Taylor
  2. Sitting, Waiting, Wishing
  3. Never Know/If You Want Me To Stay
  4. Flake
  5. Fortunate Fool
  6. Alien Casinos/Badfish/Boss DJ
  7. Inaudible Melodies
  8. Radiate
  9. My Mind Is For Sale
  10. Radio Clowns/Soul Shakedown Party
  11. Good People
  12. Bubble Toes/The Joker
  13. Wasting Time
  14. I Got You
  15. Tape Deck
  16. Big Sur
  17. Breakdown
  18. Banana Pancakes
  19. Shot Reverse Shot
  20. Staple It Together/Mas Que Nada/Whole Lotta Love
  21. Mudfootball
  22. Do You Remember
  23. Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die (partial)
  24. Willie Got Me Stoned And Stole All My Money
  25. Angel
  26. Better Together