For this writer, seeing Jack Johnson live has been fourteen years in the making. I vividly remember being at a family-friends’ house and their youngest son playing Johnson’s break out track “Taylor” on repeat (or near enough) for the entirety of the night. Little did I know that in 2017 I’d get the chance to see the man himself open his third consecutive Sydney show with the very same song.
Gracing the steps of the Sydney Opera House for a rain soaked Saturday night, Jack Johnson greeted the fans with warmth, humour and a set that was from front-to-back covered in absolute bangers and fan favourites. Before opening with the aforementioned “Taylor”, he thanked the crowd for turning up early, putting up with the rain and promised a heap of requests and good times in return. It was from this point it became clear that this show was going to be for the fans.
Moving into “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing”, he followed it up with “Never Know”; the first of the promised requests to turn up in the set. While he made note that he might not remember all the chords and lyrics, the fans really didn’t mind. As an accidental superstar, his personality reminded you that in reality he really is just another guy who happens to play music for a living. There is no bravado or sass.
Up next was “Flake”, from his debut album Brushfire Fairytales. At this point you just knew the set was going to be career spanning, and for long time fans, this was just rewards for putting up with what was quite frankly miserable weather. Introducing the band (Zach Gill on keys/piano/ melodica/ accordian, Merlo Podlweski on bass, and Adam Topol on drums), you could definitely appreciate their minimalist approach and how well they all knew their part.
Entering the middle of the set, “Sleep Through The Static” and “Radiate” got the crowd moving, before Johnson gave the background story to his track “If I Had Eyes”. Playing a stripped back “Rodeo Clowns”, he segued into the crowd favourite and first real sing-a-long “Good People”.
Doing their best Randy Orton impression, the band pulled “Mud Football” out of nowhere. Explaining that the first time he ever toured Australia, he learnt that Australians are super lazy with words and tended to shorten everything (“Hey Johno, play ‘Mud Footy'”), they segued into “Bubble Toes”; a one-two punch that left me frothing.
Bringing out support act and label mates Bahamas (which I’d missed on the back of how useless and unreliable Sydney Trains are), the two bands went through three tracks together, including the reflective “Breakdown”, new track “Big Sur” and the absolute riot of a hoedown “Tape Deck”.
Closing out the main set with sentimental crowd favourite “Banana Pancakes”, Zach Gill summed up the mood of the night as he busted out the accordion; he’s definitely a man of many musical talents. It would have been justified if they finished up here, but with an encore still to come, you couldn’t complain at all.
Returning back on stage with the love song “Do You Remember”, Johnson joked that if you went through the lengths he went through to date his now wife, you’d probably be arrested. Mentioning that every time he forgets an anniversary or doesn’t know what present to get his wife he writes her love song, Johnson moved into “Love Song #16” before forgetting how to play it and moved onto a better song (his words), “Gone Going”.
Closing on the beautiful “Angel” and “Better Together”, you were reminded once more why the guy is as successful as he has been. Sure there’s definitely a great work ethic there, but over all, Jack Johnson is just a good bloke; the type of guy to give you the shirt off his back or shoes off his feet.
For a set that’s been fourteen years in the making, I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. I’m sure the rest of the Sydney crowd thought the same.
The reviewer attended this show on December 2nd.