BROWN BAND - JASON MRAZ BAND - MYER MUSIC BOWL
BROWN CHICKEN FRIED ABOVE THE YARRA
moon should have been an omen for those hardy heathens starting Easter
early by rolling back their stones and ascending the King's Domain from
the Yarra below on a balmy autumn Monday evening.
They came from the bush and beaches for all-star Georgian Zac Brown Band
and a diverse mixed-cultural milieu for the blue-eyed soul funk pop of
Jason Mraz and nine piece group.
It was a multi-genre mix that made sense as a predominantly youthful audience,
occupying rugs and chairs scattered across the parched grass, soaked up
Tonight was reminiscent of the open air comfort and ambience of the recent
37th Port Fairy folk festival - on a smaller scale.
Sadly the sound was not up to the standard of Port Fairy but the muddy
vocal mix for Zac quickly improved as the mixers kicked the dew off the
This promised to be the gig of autumn - if not the first half of the year.
The Zac Brown Band has become a huge act in the U.S. - because of its
eclectic mix of roots country, bluegrass, reggae, island rhythms and Dixie
But here, in the unlucky radio country, they have played second fiddle
or maybe violin to metropolitan mainstream corporate chain music.
Now, with a little lateral marketing, they were supporting fellow Grammy
winners - the quirky Jason Mraz Band - in an effort to ride that Horse
Of Troy across the myopic moat.
They were soon to prove they will return - as headliners.
The Georgians kicked off with Keep Me In Mind from their Get
What You Give disc before Brown announced it was his first Australian
tour and bassist John Driskill Hopkins played the vocal role of Alan Jackson
on As She's Walking Away.
Brown tipped back Whiskey's Gone but it's unlikely the father of
four would have heard or answered the lass on the grass who cried out
"Zac, I want to have your baby."
Maybe he subliminally answered her call as he sang "had lips like
candy, hair floated like water" as he started Natural Disaster.
THE BOSS IS BACKSTAGE TONIGHT
But the singer didn't take long to announce his first nocturnal surprise
- "tonight we have Jake Clemons of the E Street Band joining us."
It's not clear if the sax player was replacing Trombone Shorty but he
had full permission of Bruce Springsteen - enjoying his "boss-man's
holiday" in the wings on his night off - on Dave Matthews Band cover
Brown invited and received audience participation in Jump Right In
before declaring "the answer is blowing in the wind" but Dylan
did not spring from the wings as he did on his three night stand at the
same venue in 1978.
By now the band was revelling in its eclectic mix of bluegrass, reggae
and soulful country as Brown introduced ''all the way from Walhalla Clay
Cook on electric guitar" for a strident solo as the light show also
fired up The Wind and Who Knows.
Jimmy De Martini emerged from the no longer muddy mix in the beatific
ballad Colder Weather before another audience singalong in the
Jimmy Buffettesque Toes.
there was the evocative pathos primed Goodbye In Her Eyes
before a tempo surge in sixth album title track Uncaged.
Brown paid tribute to the generosity of headliner Jason Mraz for
sharing billing before a liberal lacing of violin and steel on Knee
Deep without Buffett and Enjoy The Ride.
depth of Brown's stellar band peaked in their riveting revival of
The Devil Went Down To Georgia - penned by septuagenarian
Charlie Daniels who last toured here in 1981.
Brown then stopped the show for an anecdote about his first visit
to Byron Bay as a humble tourist a decade ago.
was on the beach with a beer from Boag & Sons and went to the
top of Mount Warning - if you are up there it's the first place
the sun rises in the whole continent of Australia. I was also standing
on top of Mount Warning as the sun starts to set in that orange
and purple sky. It starts to wash down and spill over - that's where
this song came from here in Australia."
Brown's band as they performed Free with a cameo Van Morrison's
Into The Mystic from their 2008 breakthrough album The Foundation.
Zac announced they had time for two more songs but didn't hear the grass
pleas for Sic Em on A Chicken.
"Thanks to Jason Mraz for having us here tonight," Brown said,
"we're going to come out and have a beer with y'all."
Before that the band performed Sleep With One Eye Open - recorded
by Metallica as Enter Sandman.
They closed with a thundering rendering of their embryonic hit Chicken
Fried, replete with vocal support for the military in far off fields.
It was a hard act to follow but I stayed to hear a band whose music I
have never heard before.
1 - Keep Me In Mind
2 - As She's Walking Away
3 - Whiskey's Gone
4 - Natural Disaster
5 - Ants Marching
6 - Jump Right In
7 - The Wind
8 - Who Knows
9 - Colder Weather
10 - Toes
11 - Goodbye In Her Eyes
12 - Uncaged
13 - Knee Deep
14 - Quiet Your Mind
15 - The Devil Went Down to Georgia
16 - Free/Into The Mystic
17 - Enter Sandman (Metallica cover)
18 -Chicken Fried
JASON PLAYS CZECH MATE
place to be a Mraz music virgin - the Kings Domain soundshell and legacy
of the Myer family on a night blessed by the weather Gods?
When I explained to local musician Frank from Sons Of The Outback I had
never heard Mraz music he kindly offered they played the song I'm Yours
- music entrée for TV soapie Packed To The Rafters back
Well, hell, I've never seen the TV show and neither had Mraz, he revealed
in a March interview.
But being an open minded music buff and late blooming virgin I decided
the night was still young and the natives were not restless so I stayed
for the headliner.
I had no idea he was of Czech descent, grew up in Mechanicsville, Virginia,
after his parents split when he was four, and debuted with 2001 album
Live At Java Joe's in San Diego.
Well the San Diego connection was fitting - I first saw Springsteen play
there in 1978 when singing actor Gary Busey gave me a joint backstage
when he learned I was from Australia.
But that's another story - not quite as fascinating as Jason's surname
Mraz means frost in Czech and the actor creator of Nu Country TV - Peter
Hosking - now lives in Prague.
Mraz was an easy act to like - the vocal mix had improved to the extent
I picked up on every lyric and learned the entrée I Take The
Music was followed by The World As I See It and Make It
Mine/ Live High.
the band on a selection of acoustic guitars and was complimented by a
three piece horn section, two drummers, violinist, accordion player, bassist
and cast of harmony singers.
played an eclectic mix of blue-eyed soul, funk, reggae and pop that
I'm now elated to learn invaded commercial radio with, I suspect,
ABC and community airwaves exposure.
But the real catalyst appears to have been frequent use of Mraz
songs in movies, Gap and Hilton hotel commercials and our TV shows.
The singer has also worked with Shotgun Willie Nelson whom he referenced
in his hit Curbside Prophet.
singer revealed he had fond memories of playing the equally regally
named Prince of Wales and nearby St Kilda festival a decade ago
before he introduced a tawdry tale - If The Plane Goes Down.
warm stage patter, with equally illustrative video footage, as he interacted
with band members and audience as he glided through Only Human, When
We Die and Give Me Love.
There was also an element of on stage dancing but no cameo from very fit
Kommotion and Go Show dancer Tony Healey celebrating a trip from Sorrento
at the age of 66.
Frank D Fixer enabled Mraz to introduce cousin Chris Jordan on keyboards
while a George Harrison cover received a psychedelic video illustration.
Mraz also added stretching exercises during another horn fuelled gallop
while female band members added to the mix with violin and banjo and harmonies.
There was even a "naughty word" warning before the rollicking
You Fckin Did It and his steel drummer was a perfect foil when
she excelled with stick work on the singer's Love dubbed guitar.
It was a joyous celebration with flute and accordion to the fore as Jason
assembled his entire nine piece band for a stage left acoustic number.
"I hate to leave Melbourne city but I just can't stay," he proffered
as he introduced encore Song For A Friend, 93 Million Miles
and recent hit I Won't Give Up - also featured in Packed To
This was an inspired set with appeal way beyond the mainstream - with
20 songs it ended right on 11 pm.
Time to catch the last bus and trains to the suburbs - but maybe not the
JASON MRAZ BAND SET LIST
I Take The Music
The World as I See It
Make It Mine / Live High
When We Die
Give Me Love
Frank D. Fixer
A Beautiful Mess
You Fckn Did It
I'm Coming Over
Song for a Friend
93 Million Miles
I Won't Give Up
by David Dawson
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