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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Jason Mraz at the O2 Arena, London - 01/12/12


I should begin this post by admitting that I am not a fan of Jason Mraz's latest album Love Is A Four Letter Word.  Aside from two or three tracks, this album just hasn't captured me in the way the previous three studio albums (which I still listen to regularly) have.  Though the huge commercial success of 'I'm Yours' gave Mraz much deserved recognition which was long overdue, it also appears to have shaped this album. It seems that with Love Is A Four Letter Word, Mraz has found a formula that works and stuck with it, as the easy listening influences of of 'I'm Yours' runs throughout the album.  I may be biased as I've never liked 'I'm Yours', but all the same I feel the quirky lyrics and varied genres that made the first three albums - particularly Waiting For My Rocket To Come and Mr. A-Z -  so unique are severely lacking on Love Is A Four Letter Word.

Despite not exactly loving the latest album, I was still excited to see Mraz in concert again.  The last time was 2008's Royal Albert Hall performance, and though he did return to the UK in 2009, I was in America at the time so unfortunately couldn't attend any of the shows.  In the four years since I had last seen him, Mraz's career has seen a big boost, largely due to the success of We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things and in particular 'I'm Yours'.  This show at the O2 - the one and only UK date on the Tour Is A Four Letter Word tour - marks the first arena Mraz has played over here, previous shows have always taken place in smaller capacity venues.

Mraz opened the performance with an incredible medley of 'Make It Mine', 'Live High' and 'Butterfly'.  The transition from 'Make It Mine' straight into the middle 8 horn section and final chorus of 'Live High' worked brilliantly, before a final progression into 'Butterfly topped off the trio of songs.  Having previously only seen Mraz in intimate venues, I was curious as to to how his music would convey in a venue like the O2.  However, these opening tracks, complete with full band sounded fantastic in the arena, especially when combined with Mraz's impressive vocals.  Though the opening medley was my favourite segment of the concert, I was left feeling slightly disappointed that so many of my favourites from We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things had been played so soon into the performance.
However, any concerns I may have felt soon disappeared as the evening went on.  A rendition of 'Fly Me To The Moon' not only complimented Mraz's vocals, but was a perfect lead-in to 'Lucky'.

The setlist was varied, with a wide range of material being played from all four studio albums.  'The Remedy (I Won't Worry)' followed by 'You And I Both' from Waiting For My Rocket To Come, were a welcome addition to the setlist and a highlight of the performance.  'Plane' was another key moment of the evening - such a beautiful, moving track and a fine pick from the Mr. A-Z album.  Of the newer material played, I very much enjoyed 'Frank D. Fixer'.  Though it is one of about the three tracks I like on Love Is A Four Letter Word, I felt it really came to life with the live band.  The most random (but fantastic) moment of the night came when sax player Sergio Flores emerged from the crowd and made his way on stage to join Mraz for a cover of 'Careless Whisper', all the while interacting with members of the audience.  The inevitable appearance of 'I'm Yours' came towards the end of the set, however the song became a whole lot more enjoyable for me when it evolved into 'Three Little Birds'.  As my one of my favourite  Bob Marley tracks, I was thrilled with this transition and found myself singing along with everyone else in the crowd.

Though I do love hearing live music in smaller venues - mainly due to the better sound quality and overall intimacy of such venues - this concert at the O2 proved that Mraz's music translates fantastically in both larger arenas, as well as the intimate settings that fans had been used to seeing him play up until now.  Mraz is a gifted musician, and accompanied by his dynamic live band, his powerful vocals shone effortlessly throughout this performance.

Setlist
'Make It Mine' > 'Live High' > 'Butterfly'                          
'0% Interest'
'Only Human'
'Fly Me To The Moon'
'Lucky'
'The World As I see It'
'Everything Is Sound'
'The Remedy (I Won't Worry)'
'You And I Both'
'The Woman I Love'
'Living In The Moment'
'Careless Whisper'
'Plane'
'Frank D. Fixer'
'You Fckn Did It'
'I'm Yours' > 'Three Little Birds'                        
'I'm Coming Over'

'Song For A Friend'
'93 Million Miles'
'I Won't Give Up'