MANILA, Philippines – To me, Jason Mraz is that artist whose music always claimed half a gigabyte of my iPod’s memory. I have almost all of his songs and videos saved on my iPod because a lot of his tunes defined the first decade of my post-college life. That’s why I got excited when I learned that he was once again Philippine-bound for a one-night performance. That excitement doubled when I found out that INQUIRER.net was sending me to the Big Dome to cover his show. Not even the rainy weather could dampen my spirits that day; I already missed out on his previous concerts and there’s no way I’m letting this chance pass again.
My nephew and I came to the venue an hour earlier than the concert schedule in anticipation of the massive traffic jam brought about by the sudden rain shower, plus the influx of a sold-out crowd at the entrance gates. I realized, too, that most concertgoers are accustomed to shows that start late because an hour later, while people were still coming in and finding their way to their seats, Jason Mraz surprised everyone by coming up on stage at exactly 8:00 p.m. This sent people at the patron area frantically reaching for their phones and cameras, running towards the front row to get a better view of him. Even the person manning the spotlight was probably taken by surprise because for a few seconds, he failed to focus the light on him. He greeted everyone, uttered a few memorized Filipino phrases (salamat po, kamusta kayo), promised everyone a night of fun, and went on to introduce his front act Zendee, whom he described as “an amazing singer”. It was an act that endeared him more to me – an amazing display of humility for a big artist to go out of his way to introduce a relatively unknown singer whose claim to fame was via YouTube. He hugged Zendee before quickly disappearing backstage to give the younger singer her time in the limelight.
Zendee, probably better known as “Random Girl” on Youtube, introduced herself and appeared really excited on stage. She performed a couple of mellow songs that showcased her voice range, but what really showed her talent was her belt-out version of Michael Bolton’s “Go The Distance”. A song loaded with high notes, she wowed everyone by her fantastic performance, subsequently earning a very loud cheer from the audience. She sang the carrier track “Runaway” off her album “I Believe”, and ended her time on stage with “Hallelujah”, which she claims to be her favourite song.
Half an hour later, Jason Mraz finally came out on stage, an acoustic guitar slung on his side. Mraz, clad in black, flamingo-printed shirt, jeans, sneakers and his trademark fedora hat, with his face and arms painted white and blue stripes, proceeded to strum the first bars of “The World As I See It”, followed by “Everything Is Sound”. In between songs he would do his signature scatting that delighted the audience. He then played a quieter version of his first ever hit “The Remedy”, to which the crowd joined him in his singing. He acknowledged the crowd’s engagement by saying “you have a beautiful voice, thank you for singing with us tonight”.
Now this is what I love about Jason Mraz. Listening to him was like listening to a very eloquent person give a heartfelt monologue about the story of his life. Living up to his moniker “Mr. A-Z” that was drawn from his ability to create stories out of his lengthy lyrics, he gave the audience an insight into what he thinks and what he believes in between songs. He tells everyone “worrying about stuff actually works because 90 percent of what you worry about never happens,” before breaking out into his all-guitar performance of “Who I Am Today”. He would change the lyrics in the end by singing “salamat po” instead of “thank you”, which enthralled the audience. Keeping the momentum of his performance, he transitioned from “Who I Am Today” to “Butterfly”, then to “Three Things”. His next performance, “Frank D Fixer”, was dedicated to all the men who became a father figure to him.
The energy inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum was already high by the time Jason played “You and I Both” on his guitar. The Big Dome had a feel-good atmosphere and for a moment I thought maybe love was indeed present in everyone that night as he went on to sing “Living In The Moment”. By the time Jason sang “Lucky”, arguably his most famous song to date, the crowd was already ecstatic. The crowd went even wilder when Zendee came up on stage once again to perform the parts originally sung by Colbie Caillat. After that wonderful duet he continued with “Make It Mine” (a personal favourite), “Only Human”, and “Planes”. He also sang “You F****n’ Did It”, reminding the people beforehand to never use the F word loosely.
He performed “I’m Coming Over”, a song that greatly showcased Jason and his band’s musicality. After this, he once again thanked his fans, this time for the very crafty and humorous fan signs he saw from the crowd. He kept going with “Woman I Love”, “A Beautiful Mess” (another personal favourite) and “93 million miles”. However, while everyone else sang with him, I found myself slowly slumping in my chair when Jason ended his set with “I Won’t Give Up”. It’s this thing – I call it the Jason Mraz effect – wherein you feel the urge to fix yourself a cup of coffee and just sit down, his songs slowly drowning out your thoughts as you stare blankly at the sunset. That’s how disarming his melodies are, more so because they were performed live. For a while, I did forget the things that were bothering me and I did get to enjoy the night until his encore performance of “I’m Yours”. After 20 songs and lots of small stories, Jason Mraz and his band bowed down to an audience of elated fans who were still begging for another encore.
Before the show, Jason Mraz promised his Filipino fans a night of fun. He did keep it.