The tantalizing aroma of funnel cakes circulated through Starlight Theatre on a gentle breeze Wednesday evening.
Freshly fried dough topped with powdered sugar may not provide much in the way of sustenance, but the delicious treat was enjoyed by many in the audience of about 6,000 on hand to hear Jason Mraz. The pop star’s delectably inconsequential music proved similarly irresistible.
Mraz’s two-hour performance showcased his best and worst traits. His lithe approach has produced a handful of songs with remarkable depth that resonated with extraordinary power on Wednesday. Yet during renditions of mundane and unbearably glib material, Mraz resembled a mildly entertaining street busker.
Thankfully, Mraz has the good sense to surround himself with superior musicians. Showcased in a variety of settings, his nine-piece band gave Mraz’s material a powerful lift. A three-piece horn section added heft to otherwise limpid songs, including “Make It All Mine” and “Butterfly.” Violinist Merritt Lear contributed sultry vocals to “Lucky.” “I’m Coming Over” was performed as an acoustic hootenanny. An ambitious arrangement of the otherwise inane “A Beautiful Mess” evoked Bobby “Blue” Bland’s accomplished band.
During “Living in the Moment,” a new song that encapsulates his world view, Mraz endorsed an “easy and breezy” lifestyle. The phrase provides an ideal summation of the celebration of escapism on his signature song, “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry).”
An inspirational version of the nebulous gospel-tinged anthem “I Won’t Give Up” was magnificent.
Even better was Christina Perri’s duet with Mraz on Perri’s enchanting ballad “Distance.” Fans on hand to catch Perri’s opening set weren’t surprised that her reappearance served as the highlight of Mraz’s set. Bolstered by convincing renditions of her hits “Jar of Hearts” and “A Thousand Years,” Perri and her brawny four-piece band were a revelation.
Clutching a plate of food as he introduced Perri, Mraz told the audience that “you are what you eat.” While his fans may have binged on the musical equivalent of funnel cakes Wednesday, almost none of them departed having lost their taste for Mraz.
Setist: Ray of Sunshine, The Remedy (I Won’t Worry), Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Make It Mine, Butterfly, Lucky, Up, Plane, You and I Both, Living in the Moment, 5/6, Frank D. Fixer, You Fckn Did It, Love Looks Like, I’m Coming Over, The Woman I Love, A Beautiful Mess, 93 Million Miles, I’m Yours, Three Little Birds, All Dialed In, Distance, I Won’t Give Up.
Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star