REVIEW: Jason Mraz at the Riverside Theater
20 degrees feeling like 4 degrees with wind chill, that’s the kind of weather I like to hear my tropical inspired pop. Or at least that’s what I told myself on Dec. 8th when I went to see Jason Mraz play at the sold-out Riverside theater. When I think of Jason Mraz I’m immediately thrown back to my high school years with all the girls I knew pining over his love inspired tracks. Originally going in with that mentality I was pleasantly surprised to hear that while Mr. Mraz’s music still holds that same sentiment of peace, love, and happiness. That sense of adolescence was gone. The crowd consisted of elder millennials and middle-aged folks that were all really jazzed to see Jason Mraz. After the show started, I knew that this show was going to be something downright heartfelt.
Coming out to his stage with nothing more than one acoustic guitar, a mug full of what I can only assume was tea and a bar stool. For a guy that started with humble coffee house beginnings, it was a treat to see him not gain a lick of pretentiousness about him. It still felt like he was playing in a coffee house, but instead, a completely sold out theater. While he might have felt he was in a small coffee shop, his sound filled the entire theater like he was an opera singer. From each guitar pluck and strum to Jason’s surprisingly powerful vocals, I was blown away with how good he sounded.
Usually, with many of the shows, I see I always state a point where the band or singer has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. This was the entirety of the show. I don’t want to say people heckled Jason, but in between songs people would cheer out for obscure older songs like “Tacos and Mojitos” and ask scream “I love you Jason!!!” to which he would humbly reply “I love you guys too.” Although a pretty basic response, it felt like he truly meant it. Personally, I think that Jason puts tremendous heart in his happy pop-folk tunes and when people react accordingly to it, he tips his hat. In this case, he literally tipped his hat. He’s still rocking the fedora after all these years, making men all across the nation wonder why they can’t rock the fedora like him. Maybe that’s just me.
Jason also has this encouraging ability to break up songs with brevity. I did not know he was that funny at all. I times I was really bursting out laughing. Particularly when he sang his song “Chocolate”, an ode to his wife on their third anniversary. A heartfelt and downright hilarious song about how he basically keeps chocolate on a holster in case his wife is in a bad mood. After that song, he gave us a preview of the upcoming songs for his next anniversaries including one about leather and getting kinky in the bedroom, and another about sweatpants and how easy they are to take off in the heat of the moment.
In addition to just him and his ONE guitar, (He didn’t switch guitars once which I thought was interesting, but also refreshing as he paced the show along without one break in laughs or loving feels) he was joined by Toca Rivera on the bongo which really brought to life many of his songs. At one point his stagehand, dressed as an elf, came out to join Jason and Toca and sing their song about being buddies. There’s one line in particular which made me wonder if this was more of an impromptu song or something they actually recorded, as they likened their friendship to that of being lesbians and finding a girl. Did I mention this show as funny as hell?
All in all, I was wowed by Jason Mraz. His sold-out venue, his immense voice that wooed the crowd, the fact that he had conversations with the semi-drunk Milwaukee crowd, all of this culminated in a beautiful night. Filled with love and music in the air, he left the crowd wanting more. To the point, they turned on the lights and music to file people out and they weren’t budging. Whether they were die-hard fans or just casual listeners like me, it was clear Jason left an impression on Milwaukee. It’s safe to say we’d have him back with open arms.