Jason Mraz - Manchester Academy 3 - 9.6.03

As soon as Dylan plugged in an electric the whole idea of the traditional singer songwriter baring his soul with just an acoustic guitar for company was pretty much f**ked. Why would anyone want to sit around stroking there chin watching a balding man with no discernible personality rattle off cliched love / protest songs when you could have the experience of a demi-god on stage backed with a band threatening to deafen you with a full scale aural assault. Over the past 20 years it's only an artist like Billy Bragg who has been able to carry off the role of singer songwriter with any dignity and yet over in the States people like Pete Yorn and Jesse Malin have been flying the flag for a new kind of singer songwriter. A kind of singer songwriter who has a personality while at the same time a person who knows the song is king.

Introducing Jason Mraz who in the space of 10 minutes on stage manages to play a song which splices Nelly's "Hot In Herre" with Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Starting Something" and lyrics about Sloppy Spice giving head and negro christians wanting to bomb Iraq. Mraz is not your archetypal singer songwriter. While aligning a little too close to MOR music on record, his live outings become celebrations of live with his personality being pushed to the fore with the same self depreciating humour that Robbie Williams bounces off. Throughout there's a great chemistry between Mraz and his percussionist and backing vocalist Toca and ultimately there lies the great attraction of Jason Mraz. Never one to take himself too seriously he'll happily chuck in not one, but two different version of Madness' "Our House" in English and Latino, and then cut up Bob Marley with Christina Aguilera in the space of 10 minutes. And that's before you even touch on his own material which rather than subject himself to the rules of singer songwriting and deliver identikit ballads to lost love's he actually decides mix up a myriad of styles from hip-hop to country and even a disco number gets thrown in for good luck.

There are few people you could throw the genius tag at or even recognize his superstar potential at such an early stage in his career, but Mraz has got what it takes to become an international star in his own right unless he decides to throw in the towel and write songs for other people ala Greg Alexander. It's not so much the music that even shines, it's the whole fact that for years now we've had to put up with singer songwriters who are so self indulgent they forget a paying audience might actually want to enjoy themselves. Mraz is one in a million!!!

Alex McCann

Photo by Karen McBride - www.karenmcbride.com

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