An A-Mraz-ing Night!
My love and appreciation for all things Jason Mraz is well known. He’s a very talented songwriter, a great guitarist, an incredible vocalist, an amazing entertainer, and most importantly, I think he’s an awesome human being. And I obviously don’t put him on a pedestal. Ha.
Jason first hit the music scene around the same time as John Mayer. I’ll admit that initially, I was more drawn to John Mayer’s music, as I thought him to be the more serious songwriter, the more sensitive artist – and person. But several years, and several interviews later, John Mayer has displayed an amazing lack of sensitivity in his day to day life that his songwriting is somehow able to tap into.
On the other hand, Jason Mraz has not only managed to grow as a musician, I believe he continues to show his growth as a person. It takes a certain amount of ego to be a musician and a performer. After all, you’re inviting people to see and hear your real thoughts. You believe that you’re offering something that people will want to hear and can relate to. But from everything I’ve seen he has done a great job of staying grounded and humble while his career continues to rise.
There aren’t a lot of artists that I’ve truly wanted to meet, but Jason is one of them. So when his tour was announced this spring, I knew that I would buy tickets. But I also discovered that 20 VIP tickets were being sold per show. I determined then that I HAD to get two of those tickets. Through a bit of luck and savvy internet searching (it’s a long story), I was able to purchase two VIP packages which included a pre-show meet and greet, front row tickets, and a gift bag. The purchase benefited the Jason Mraz Foundation, which he created to help fund social, environmental, arts, and other causes that he believes in.
So the day of the concert finally arrived last Saturday, August 18th. We got to Aaron Rents Amphitheater well before the agreed meeting time. There was absolutely NO WAY I was going to let Atlanta traffic stop me from meeting him. Getting there early ended up being a good thing because, as can be typical with a hot Atlanta summer day, the rain came. We had been directed to a specific entrance for the meet and greet that had a bit of an overhang. So we were able to escape getting wet while the folks already lined up at the other gate got soaked.
At the appointed time, Jason’s assistant came to get the group of us who had the VIP tickets. She couldn’t have been nicer, even though she had to deal with the unorganized ticket office staff. We were taken to a backstage area where we would meet Jason. There were no warnings about what we could/couldn’t do, except this one: “Guys, girls, it’s okay to give Jason a hug. He’s cool with it. Just don’t make it creepy. And we’ve seen it get creepy. Each of you will have the opportunity to get your pictures taken with Jason. We’ll take a few to make sure we get a good one. He’ll sign something for you. We recommend the book because the poster will end up looking like a mess after you try to repack it.”
Once we got into the room, we were given the gift bags that contained a poster, a packet of basil seeds, a water bottle, and a book called A Thousand Things that Jason published a few years ago, which is a book of Polaroid images he took.
When it was our turn to meet him, he said, “Hey, I’m Jason.” I shook his hand. I wish I had hugged him. I introduced myself and Eric, then we chatted for a minute and he signed our books. The dedication in his book says, “This book is dedicated to those who stood still. And this book is dedicated to those who don’t.” Below that, Jason wrote, “and to Mike, Much love to you. Jason Mraz.”
We left the room after our time with him and made our way to the merchandise and concessions area. I bought a few T-shirts while Eric bought us a few beers and some food. Then we made our way to our seats – our FRONT ROW seats. And not only were we on the front row, they were in the center. Perfect!
Jason came out briefly to introduce Christina Perri and thanked the crowd for braving the rain. I had never heard her music, but Eric and I both enjoyed her set. The way she sang reminded me a bit of Alanis Morisette. I liked a number of her songs, including Black & Blue, as well as the song A Thousand Years. Jason brought her back on stage to perform a duet of the song Distance, which was great.
Jason started his set with the song that launched his career, The Remedy. Throughout the night, he did songs from his catalog, but I was most surprised to hear him perform the song Plane from Mr. A-Z. It’s a vocal tour de-force, and his live performance was amazing.
He performed quite a few songs from his latest release, Love is a Four Letter Word, including: The Freedom Song, Living In The Moment, The Woman I Love, 93 Million Miles, Frank D. Fixer, I’m Coming Over, and during the encore, I Won’t Give Up. He also performed several songs from We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things, including: I’m Yours (which segued into Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds), Lucky, Butterfly, Only Human, and one of his best songs, A Beautiful Mess (more on that later). He also did a funky cover of Signed, Sealed, Delivered.
The highlight of the show for me was A Beautiful Mess. It’s a great song, and Jason did a great job in the studio. But his live performance is nothing short of a revelation. This video is from another show, but you’ll see what I mean.
Earlier in the night, I made the comment that I hoped I could catch one of his guitar picks. Luckily, I got one, so that was another highlight of the night. One side says “This is for you,” with his name on the other side.
Jason had a terrific band, complete with horns. But there’s one person in particular that I have to mention, his percussionist Mona Tavakoli, who is a star in her own right. She has amazing energy and she never stopped moving the entire night. I know a lot of fans miss Toca, but I think she’s amazing.
This was my second time seeing Jason, the first being at the Tabernacle in 2009. So I already knew what a great show he puts on. I would have enjoyed this show no matter where we sat, but sitting in the front row was definitely a terrific experience. At the end of the show, Jason brought his band to the front of the stage and bowed to the audience, repeatedly offering his thanks. As we were leaving our seats, I told Eric that it was one of the best nights of my life.
It wasn’t until later that I fully realized why. Jason used music to not only entertain, but to create a shared moment with his audience, to create a happy place and to connect with them. It reminded me that while his style is certainly different, he shares that same ability with another of my favorites, Sade.
One day, I’d love to sit down with Jason and talk about music and life. And maybe I could ask him for that hug. I know that’s improbable, but one can dream, right? After all, I never thought I’d actually get to meet him and have front row seats. So here’s to hoping. And here’s to an amazing evening. Thank you, Jason Mraz!
To close out this extremely long blog post, here is I’m Yours and Three Little Birds, which I recorded that night.