Last Friday, Jason Mraz returned to Tucson for the first time in over a decade. The last time he was here, he was performing alongside the likes of Southwest superstar openers, Ryanhood, for his Mr. A-Z tour at the same venue – the celebrated Centennial Hall. This time, he was kicking off his ‘Superband’ tour with an all-star band consisting of the likes of longtime collaborators Raining Jane and Toca Rivera, as well as consummate musicians Andre Santana (bass), Eric Hinojosa (keys), and Michael Leroy Bram (drums). It was an all-out birthday bash for the celebrated singer-songwriter, social activist, and accidental avocado farmer, who turns 39 tomorrow during his Superband show at the Hollywood Bowl in LA.
As a performer, Mraz has been wowing audiences around the world since his rise to the top of the charts with hits like “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” and the seminal “I’m Yours” over the past 18 years, both of which were staple performances showcased by him and his Superband during their latest Centennial Hall outing. The great thing about an artist like Mraz is his ability to completely reinvent the wheel with timeless songs, whether we’re talking about works from Dylan, Sinatra, or, well, his own. While he brought down the house midway through with a rollicking singalong rendition of “I’m Yours” along its traditional arrangement, songs like the aforementioned “Remedy” being given a fresh coat of reggae paint as he got the audience grooving into his redux.
What his show was more about than anything—as it has always been for a heart-on-their-sleeve troubadour the same brand as Mraz—was love. Near the start of the show, he quipped during a performance of one of his earliest songs (he began performing “Tonight, Not Again” way back in 1999) that when revealing a song to an audience, a heckler said something along the lines of, “What’s it about? Love?” To a collection of laughter and cheers, Mraz told the audience, “What’s a song of mine without love in it?” to which the man replied, citing its substantial length over an improvised bridge, “About 2 minutes.”
Despite the lighthearted nature of Mraz’s back-and-forth with this character, the question he’d posed to him holds some merit. After all, from “You and I” to “Life is Wonderful”, his heartrending first collaboration with Raining Jane in “A Beautiful Mess” or songs like “Quiet” from off of their latest record, the overarching theme is, indeed, love. Showcasing the past 18 years of material he’s written for his audience, he’d expertly showcased himself as a bard understanding the many facets of love in its highs, its lows, and all of his jokes and banter in-between. With one final bow preceded by four deep breaths held between him, his Superband, and the audience, he brought a certain calm to the audience in embracing love before letting it explode into raucous applause as they’d exited stage left.
Whether he was performing solo, with his full, incredible band, or even letting Raining Jane band members Mona Tavakoli and Becky Gebhart rock out on an instrumental jam featuring cajon and sitar while he took a quick breather, Mraz and his company brought the love last Friday night. For us in the audience, universally reciprocating that love 2,500 people strong was the greatest gift, mutually filling a historic venue like Centennial Hall with such incredible highs. Here’s to hoping we don’t have to wait another decade for Jason to pop back in with his incredible musical performance, though maybe when we’re not experiencing a heatwave so Mr. A-Z won’t have to worry about becoming Mr. A-C.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm