On Tour: Jack Johnson at the Fox Theater

Jack Johnson/Courtesy
Jack Johnson soundchecking at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

Jack Johnson, a Hawaiian singer-songwriter famous for his soothing vocals and tracks focuing on the joys in life that surround him, released his sixth studio album last month. The sound of From Here to Now to You resonates with his previous works, but its lyrics break from the darker side he presented in his last two albums, which focus on the loss of his father. On the 12-track playlist, Johnson sticks mainly to acoustic pieces as he sings about his simplistic, satisfying life, with several tracks highlighting his adoration for his family.

The tracks of this album, intertwined with those produced throughout the early 2000s, made for the perfect concert at the Fox. Songs alternated between acoustic solo works by Johnson and those in which he was accompanied by electric and slide guitars, drums, an accordion and even a contraption called a “hookah,” which sounded like the spawn of a harmonica and a trumpet.

Johnson played some of his classics, “Do You Remember,” “Good People,” “Flake,” “Banana Pancakes” and “Bubble Toes.” He played most of these tracks acoustically alongside Adam Topol on the drums. He broke up the set during “Constellations” when he brought out a slide guitar, which he later used in “Space Cowboy” and in his new track “Changes.”

From his new album, the most memorable tracks performed were “I Got You,” “As I Was Saying” and “Washing Dishes.” The affection Johnson has for his family radiated from him, especially during these songs, though his energy was by no means sparse during other segments of the show.

For a few of his tracks, the musician brought out Bahamas, the opening act of the tour, who surprised audiences with his powerful vocals and dry humor. Bahamas is the solo project of Toronto-based musician Afie Jurvanen. He has worked with multiple noteworthy Canadian musicians, most prominently Feist. His second album, Barchords, was released in 2012 and has designated Bahamas as a musician on the rise whom the public should keep an eye out for.

His lyrics, like Johnson’s, focus on relationships. He, however, stands apart from Johnson’s satisfaction with his family, as he portrays a sense of remorse and frustration over failed love. Throughout the set, Bahamas combined his precision on the guitar with his charming vocals to take responsibility for the collapse of a relationship in which he wished his love were returned.

Coincidentally, Bahamas is signed to Brushfire Records, Jack Johnson’s record label, which was established in 2002 for the purpose of materializing the soundtracks for his surf films. Those signed to the label typically mirror the rich relaxation found in the works of Johnson and Bahamas.  Namely, the company includes G. Love, Matt Costa and Rogue Wave.

The combination of Johnson and Bahamas created a concert that encouraged taking a break from a hectic life to enjoy its overlooked simplicities.