Tuesday, September 18, 2018
The colorful, tie-dyed “Good Vibes” tapestry providing the backdrop to Jason Mraz’s show at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 15, was more than a set design or a tour name — it extended to every aspect of his enchanting, healing, uplifting set.
Setting the tone for the night, Brett Dennen brought his peace-wielding folk-pop tunes, melding the packed crowd of all ages into one happy mass of good vibes. Conjuring the likes of Van Morrison and Tom Petty, Dennen earnestly played a selection of hits, from the propulsive “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog)” to the guitar-solo-infused “Wild Child” to the anthemic “Here’s Looking at You, Kid.”
Mraz took the stage with a full band decked out in brightly colored jumpsuits, looking like a troop of Teletubbies who could also shred on the guitar, slap the bass, or break out into a scatting solo. Wasting no time getting to the hits, Mraz delighted fans with favorites like “I’m Yours,” “Curbside Prophet,” and “The Remedy” early on, coaching the crowd in sing-alongs and encouraging spontaneous dancing.
However, his performance was far from a mere replaying of the singles. Mraz incorporated plenty of “had to be there” moments, including a spiritual group breathing session in which the crowd inhaled and exhaled in unison, with Mraz gently directing, “Breathe in and out; it’s all we’re here to do.”
His heartfelt single “93 Million Miles” was bookended with a trance-y sitar solo as the dark night blanketed the crowd and stage lights climbed through the trees. The group paid tribute to Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin with lovely, stripped-down versions of “Say a Little Prayer” and “Respect.”
Mraz’s songs off his newest album, Know, played beautifully, including “Have It All” and “Unlonely,” bolstered by an “I Want You Back” bass line. Ending the night, the band crowded around the piano for an infectious rendition of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” sealing the deal on the tour’s promise — as if the smiling faces, tapping toes, and full hearts left any room for debate.