Jack Johnson led his Sunday night show at the Dos Equis Pavilion near the Dallas Fair Park fairgrounds as if it were a beachside campfire jam session. If that doesn’t sound like a fun time to you, that’s fair, but Johnson’s been touring long enough that you’re either on his mellow wavelength or you’re not. Either way is perfectly fine with Johson, who always seems to give off the vibe that if he weren’t playing music, he’d rather be surfing, or ceding the spotlight to his many environmental conservation efforts.
Meet the Moonlight
The former professional surfer-turned soft rock environmental philanthropist was in town for his Meet the Moonlight tour, promoting his new album of the same name. The new record, his eighth, is timely and introspective. Album opener “Open Mind” has him simultaneously bemoaning people who can’t keep an open mind, and chastising himself for not being able to do the same. But his music has always been this way. There has always been a melancholic lilt to his voice, a suggestion that he’s never too far away from duck-diving into some deep misgivings about the state of the world. For every “Banana Pancakes,” “Bubble Toes” or “Flake,” there’s a “Taylor” or “The News” or a “The Horizon Has Been Defeated.”
More: Read my review of Kenny Chesney’s AT&T Stadium show here
But such introspection was not what the people in Dallas wanted, and Johnson knew it. After Ziggy Marley warmed the crowd up with a set that featured “Love is My Religion,” “Beach in Hawai’i” and some covers of his father’s songs, Johnson took the stage around 9 p.m. and played nearly 30 songs spanning his decades-long career, most of them hits. He only played four songs from his new album.
Backed by his usual trio of Zach Gill on piano/melodica/organ, Adam Topol on drums and Merlo Podlewski on bass, Johnson interpolated song into song like waves crashing into one another, mixing electric and acoustic soundscapes with ease.
The informal campfire feel was infectious. He gave the final verse of “Taylor” over to Gill’s piano accompaniment, and also let him sing the final verse of “Wasting Time.” Johnson broke out some beer bottles to use as instruments during the new song “Costume Party.” He took requests — song and otherwise — during the encore. At one point a fan asked to trade slippahs with Johnson, and he obliged. “Hopefully you don’t have some sort of foot fungus,” he joked. (Hopefully, they traded back after the show). And, of course, there was much discussion of marijuana.
Willie Got Me Stoned
We were sitting pretty far back on the lawn, where the view of the stage was illuminated by the occasional flicker of a lighter finding the end of a joint. This crowd was prepared.
“It smells nice in here, and I’m not just saying that because I forgot the words to this verse,” Johnson joked midway through “If I Had Eyes.” He also said this Dallas crowd seemed higher than the one Saturday night in Austin, which is a lovely gesture. And, since this was a Texas show, of course Johnson played “Willie Got Me Stoned,” his ode to losing money in a poker game to the Lone Star State’s Crown Prince of Cannabis.
By the time the show was over and it was time for the crowd to meet the moonlight, Johnson sauntered off the stage as casually as he had walked onto it, letting the music and the vibes do the talking. Somehow, his music always seems to hit me right when I need it.
Setlist (* are new songs):
- “Inaudible Melodies”
- “If I Had Eyes”
- “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing”
- “One Step Ahead”*
- “Flake”/”In the Summertime” cover (Mungo Jerry)
- “You and Your Heart”
- “Upside Down”/”Time is the Master” cover (John Holt)
- “Badfish” cover (Sublime)
- “You Can’t Control It”
- “Costume Party”*
- “Bubble Toes”/”The Joker” cover (Steve Miller Band)
- “Wasting Time”
- “Open Mind”*
- “No Other Way”
- “Don’t Look Now”*
- “Shot Reverse Shot”
- “Banana Pancakes”/”Rodeo Clowns”
- “Good People”
- “Do You Remember”
- “Rocky Raccoon cover (The Beatles; just the first verse)
- “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” cover (Willie Nelson)/”Willie Got Me Stoned”
- “Better Together”