Leaving a coliseum full of positive vibes
It takes the agreement of all five senses to make an experience memorable. At the Smart Araneta Coliseum the night of May 14, Jason Mraz added another: a sense of community.
Over 10,000 people trooped to the Big Dome to immerse themselves for over two hours in the musical wizardry of the American singer-songwriter and his nine-member band. The spectators had 20 songs to choose from, with which to etch this event forever in their memories.
The parade of concert highlights started even before Mraz plucked the first note on his guitar. That is, when Zendee Rose Tenerefe—YouTube’s Pinoy “Random Girl” whose career took off in a sensational way when she was invited to perform on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in October 2012— was about to come up as the front act. Breaking convention, the two-time Grammy winner suddenly appeared on stage and introduced Tenerefe himself.
“She’s got a beautiful story, she’s got a beautiful soul, she’s got a beautiful talent. Please give it up for our special guest, Zendee!” The crowd erupted into applause as Mraz met his guest center stage and gave her a hug and a peck on the cheek.
Tenerefe, who use
d to sing in malls as pockets of accidental audiences came and went, held the throng captive that night with her powerful, full-bodied voice. She performed cuts from her first album, “I Believe,” including a moving cover of Michael Bolton’s “Go the Distance.” She would later rejoin Mraz for a surprise duet of the playful ditty, “Lucky.” Though the vocal chemistry between the two didn’t quite approximate the easygoing spirit that coursed between Mraz and Colbie Caillat in the original version (which earned a Grammy in 2010 for best pop collaboration), the audience well appreciated the effort and gave the number warm cheers.
That night, however, was all for the über-talented band. Mraz, with the trademark fedora hat keeping his curly locks in check, and comfy brown T-shirt and blue jeans making him come across as the average dude-next-door, launched his show with “The World As I See It.”
From there, Mraz took his audience on a virtual tour of his musical feel-good playground. The best-selling artist, who had performed twice before in Manila over the past seven years, made sure his fans wouldn’t get struck by a sense of deja vu and taste the same treats. For example, “The Remedy” was reworked to give it a funky jazz-reggae flavor. Everyone thus recognized what was originally a pop-rock hit, though the melodic groove was new. The crowd digged it.
The 35-year-old also got more personal this time around via “Who I Am Today,” singing about a period in his life (at age 17) “when I was getting my _ss kicked.” More
than anything, the song was about gratitude. Mraz crooned, “I thank the bullies for all the names they called along the way/ They shaped my life; they made me love who I am today.”
How could one not love Mraz and his treasure chest of compositions opening up to the bright side of life and love despite frustrating, mysterious complexities?
Mraz also performed his other well-loved hits—“You and I Both” and “I’m Yours,” the latter saved for last in a rousing encore, paired up with the eternally optimistic “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”
Much of Mraz’s repertoire showcased cuts from his latest album, “Love is a Four-Letter Word”: “Everything is Sound,” “Living in the Moment,” “I’m Coming Over,” “The Woman I Love,” “93 Million Miles,” and “I Won’t Give Up.” The last two songs elicited the loudest applause, with the anthemic “I Won’t Give Up” bringing ev
eryone to their feet and singing along to the uplifting chorus.
Songs from his 2008 album “We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things” included that night were “Make it Mine,” “Butterfly,” “Only Human,” “A Beautiful Mess,” and “Lucky.” From the 2005 album, “Mr. A-Z,” he performed “Plane (Goes Down)” and “Song For a Friend.”
Mraz received full support from his band. The concert wasn’t headlined “Jason Mraz and His Band” for nothing. The ennead—William Charles Bell (guitar), Michael Evan Bram (drums), Christopher Joyner (keyboards), Paul Stanley Armstrong (trumpet), Kristian John Attard (bass), Mona Tavakoli (percussion), Reginald Curtis Watkins (trombone), Carlos Ivan Sosa (saxophone) and Merritt Lear (backing vocals)— provided unlimited depth and dynamics to Mraz’s own spirited acoustic strumming and high tenor/falsetto vocal acrobatics.
Highlight of the dizzying interaction between Mraz and what he called his “superband” was the naughty “You Fckn Did It.” Mraz streamed off the lyrics rapid-fire and Tavakoli matched his pace on the cajón, at one point using her sticks to drum notes off Jason’s guitar strings.
Most of the time, though, the show’s pace was easy, free-flowing, communal, almost spiritual. Often, Mraz and his crew huddled together as they jammed. This was the Mraz who never let go of his San Diego coffeehouse roots. This was the Mraz who always wanted to involve his audiences in the spirit of his music (so they’re not just marveling at the technical mastery). This was the Mraz whom adoring fans always felt was theirs, close to their hearts, even when he was 93 million miles away.
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