concert reviews

Jason Mraz at DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, DC, Thurday 27 May 2004

Jason Mraz's latest outing brought lesser-known musicians before a modest crowd at DAR Constitution Hall on Thursday night. After a video advertisement for Mraz's upcoming live CD and DVD, the show kicked off with a brief performance by Makana, a Hawaiian slack-key guitarist whose talented finger work was overpowered by his oppressive vibrato.

Next up, the evening's best all-around performer, Raul Midon, tapped, plucked and strummed his guitar, creating a wealth of sounds that gave the illusion of a full band behind him. Midon, who is blind, sang with a voice as silky as Seal's, pursed his lips to imitate a trumpet, and had the audience hanging on to his every word.

Jason Mraz spent a bit too much time yapping during his Thursday performance.
Mraz lost Midon's momentum as he filled the spaces between songs (and interludes in the middle of songs) with inane banter, as if trying to create an intimate coffeehouse feel. Or perhaps he just liked the sound of his own voice, as he showed the crowd how well he could scat and later pondered the lack of synonyms for "lips." When he did sing, Mraz often strung lyrics together quickly in a near-rap, but the songs that worked better relied less on his tongue-twisting and more on simple melodies, like the melancholy "Halfway Home."

After a 90-minute set, Mraz returned for an encore of his current radio hit, "Curbside Prophet." Rather than performing with instruments, he boldly opted for an a cappella version, with Midon rocking the bass line and three other tour mates (Makana, DJ Bob Necksnapp and percussionist Jennifer Lowe) joining in. Although this song featured the night's most tasteless subtext, Mraz's risky, nontraditional arrangement lifted his set from mediocrity to end the night on a solid note.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 29 May 2004
.: Selected discography: Waiting for My Rocket to Come (Jason Mraz, 2002).