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Jack Johnson - Caught live at the Apollo

Jack Johnson

Review by Jack Foley

Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday, March 4, 2006

THE Jack Johnson feel-good revolution swept everyone up in its warm glow at Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday night, radiating a positive energy that will long be remembered.

The surfer-turned-singer who was raised in Hawaii exudes an endearing charm in just about everything that he does; whether casually strumming his trademark acoustic guitar, joking with the crowd about ‘high fives’, or teaming up with support acts to give the night’s proceedings a premature boost.

Indeed, Johnson may have been the headline act of three on the night but his presence was felt throughout.

Both support acts, Matt Costa and ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra), are signed to Johnson’s Brushfire Records label, while Johnson himself made a welcome early appearance alongside ALO to team up for the excellent duet, Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down.

Johnson’s presence on-stage immediately sent the crowd wild, with roars of ‘we love you Jack’ reverberating around the Apollo.

When he eventually re-appeared at 9pm to begin his own set, the welcome was just as loud and enthusiastic.

Much of the magic in Johnson’s particular brand of music-making lies in its easygoing simplicity. There’s nothing flashy about his songs, nor political or tacky. They’re just honest, feel-good reflections on life that instantly put people into a good mood.

Needless to say, the two hour set delivered many highlights from each of his four albums, from Brushfire Fairytales through to his most recent offering, Singalongs and Lullabies From Curious George.

The crowd regularly sang along, whooping and cheering virtually every gesture, guitar change and musical solo – whether it be from the amiable singer himself, or his talented musicians (which included, most notably, ALO lead singer Zach Gillis on piano, keyboards and accordian).

Of the songs which delighted the most, it was ironically one of the saddest that left the biggest impression.

The achingly beautiful If I Could, inspired by a friend whose life was tragically cut short by illness, was a truly poignant moment marked out by the presence of a melodica. Listen to the words closely enough and they’re more than capable of moving you to tears.

More upbeat, but no less beautifully delivered, was the former single, Breakdown, during which Johnson picked up his mini-acoustic guitar for one of several gems.

While crowd-pleasers such as Good People, Banana Pancakes and Bubble Toes succeeded in getting the crowd singing along – the latter, especially, with its joyfully cheesy la-da-da-da-da-da chorus.

In between several tracks, Johnson even dropped in a few well-rehearsed covers, including rousing renditions of The White Stripes’ My Doorbell and age-old classic My Girl just to keep listeners on their toes.

Throughout, however, the good time obviously being had on-stage translated well to the crowd above and below.

When the inevitable encore was brought to a close with an acoustic version of current single, Better Together, one couldn’t help but agree with the sentiment at the core of the song ‘it’s always better when we’re together’.

For almost 120 minutes things did seem better and for those few special moments, at least, everything seemed right with the world…