Gig Review: JASON MRAZ - Tour is a Four Letter Word: London

I went to see Jason Mraz last month at the O2 Arena when his world tour, whimsically named Tour is a Four Letter Word, hit the UK for its final night.  The tour is to support his latest album, Love is a Four Letter Word, which has spawned various other "is a four letter word" themes, including a bonus album, Live is..... and then there's the tree planting scheme, Tree is.... well, you get the idea.

Going to the arena has been on my bucket list since I watched it being built during a stint as a tarot reader at the London International Book Fair, but that's another story for another day. Of course the O2 Arena was known as the Millennium Dome back then and was mired in controversy  about the tremendous cost of erecting a metal tent with the largest continuous roof in the world only to dismantle it after a year or so. The hooha has long since died down and the dome still stands as a major London landmark. So much so that when I mentioned that I might have a couple of spare tickets for a gig there, my mother snapped them up without even enquiring who she had committed herself and my dear dad to see. I think it must have been on her bucket list too.

So we arrived and were suitably impressed. Lots to see and do inside, including a multiplex cinema and a music museum. We had a quick look in the Nissan experience (I think that was what it was called where there was a lot of interactive stuff that could have kept me occupied for an hour or two on any other day. After we had walked and wondered for half an hour or so we decided to get a cup of tea to fortify us before going into the arena proper. No problem, there were plenty of food and drink outlets, but guess what, the only one serving drinks didn't offer any hot beverages at all and the others wouldn't let us in unless we ordered food. With just twenty minutes before doors opened, that wasn't an option and most of the party just didn't want a pub drink, so we went and queued instead. The bag search was tedious and, whilst I do understand why people aren't allowed to take in certain items such as glass bottles or even plastic bottles with their lids on, part of me still sees it as an infringement of our liberties imposed on us by the activities of the selfish and the deranged of this world.

The show was opened by Jason Mraz who introduced Gregory Page, the support act for the night. He described how Gregory had given him his first ever gig and it was clear there was great affection between the two. There is also a clear similarity in ideology and I wondered if Jason had drawn inspiration from Gregory's work. I can say with certainty that he and his band were good. Very very good in fact and they went down well with the enormous audience. Jason joined him for a song or two, which greatly excited the crowd.

Naturally we had our usual very loud talkers sitting in the row behind, more or less yelling their excited conversation throughout each song, pausing only to cheer and clap as each ended before continuing with their lively debate. Mum and dad were looking daggers at them and my heart began to sink. Then, at the end of that first set, the noisome pair vanished, leaving nothing but a little dust and a sweet wrapper. We didn't see them again and I'm still wondering if they were quietly atomised where they sat. We weren't the only ones annoyed by their thoughtlessness.

While Gregory Page had been playing, the arena had been steadily filling up and there were very few spare seats by the time Jason Mraz took to the stage to a tumultuous reception and a super loud beat of a very loud bass drum - KABOOM!! And my heart sank a little again when my parents jumped in their seats. It's never wise to frighten octogenarians, especially when they've had a thirty-two step descent to their seats (supposedly suitable for disabled). 

The main show got underway with no further percussive ear trauma and I relaxed a little. Jason sang songs from his various albums and EP's with enthusiastic accompaniment from the crowd which ranged in age from young teens to our well weathered little party. There may have been children there too, the show was certainly child safe, but in an arena of that size it's hard to see every face. I've said the show was child friendly, but there was one moment that Jason had reservations about and encouraged any parents in the audience to take their offspring out for a few minutes while he sang a song that repeated a certain four letter word in practically every line. Weirdly, despite this, the song wasn't offensive.

I don't know exactly how many songs he managed to squeeze into his set, certainly most of his two albums We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things and Love is a Four Letter Word, with a few from odd singles and EP's and some standards from various eras, all performed flawlessly with his flawless band. Some were sung as medleys  - one lasted sixteen minutes without a break as song one flowed seamlessly into the next and on and on. His long time accompanist drummer Toca Rivera was not present, his place being taken by a lively female percussionist who put every ounce of herself into the performance and managed to do so without seeming as if she was trying to upstage the main man. Throughout large portions of the audience were on their feet and singing for all they were worth. The atmosphere was fantastic and my dad kept leaning over to comment on what a showman Jason was. Mum wasn't saying much, but it was pretty clear she was loving every second. They now have both albums and are hinting about going to the Dome again in the summer.

Part way through the show, the mood was broken by the sound of a saxophone coming from somewhere high in the auditorium.  Jason, feigning surprise invited the maverick musician to join him and down stepped a good looking young man with his top off, playing the opening bars of the 1980's Wham hit Careless Whisper. The song was duly played and Jason provided gorgeous vocals and then introduced the player as "the world's sexiest sax player" - look up sexy sax player on YouTube to find out more about this feller.

It's a funny thing. Usually when I'm really enjoying myself the time passes far too quickly, but Jason's show seemed to go on endlessly and left me entirely satisfied as the final notes died.  How he managed this I have no idea. If he bottled it, he could make a fortune for some of his good causes, of which he seems to have many, mostly to do with the environment or helping people with problems to get on their feet.  For more information and to see what else the man has been up to, take a look at his websitejasonmraz.com 

Copyright 2012 Susan Phillips

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