By Troy McMullenIt’s easy to like Jack Johnson. His lazy, infectious songs evoke a kind of earnest, boyish charm that would disarm even the most cynical audiophile.In a performance Wednesday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the surfer turned singer song-writer, who made his name strumming laid back, loping melodies in his native Oahu, Hawaii, managed to turn a cavernous, 20,000-seat arena into a campfire sing-along.
“He’s sort of like the new Jimmy Buffet,” said concertgoer Steve Westfall, hauling a beer in each hand as he and the mostly young, female crowd hummed along to songs like “Banana Pancakes” and “Better Together.” “He could probably play the same songs for the next 20 or 30 years and we’ll still love it.” Johnson, sporting his usual tee shirt and jeans, crammed nearly 20 songs into the two hour performance, which included a rousing, three song encore with opening act G Love. (The two men met while surfing back in the 1990′s and eventually recorded several songs together.) The sold-out show also included several light and lovey duets with the rotund, sweet-voiced Paula Fuga, a fellow Hawaiian who is part of new wave of performers pushing the local music scene on the Big Island. Of course, Johnson managed to keep his likability index high: he not only found time to dedicated songs to his wife (three songs), kids (two songs), parents (one song each), but he also got a roar from the crowd when he dedicated a song to the victims on 9/11.
Johnson is touring in support of his new album, “To the Sea.” It was recorded in his two solar-powered music studios in Hawaii (of course).