Jason Mraz offered fans something different Friday, October 17, in Milwaukee. Touring on his first acoustic effort “Yes!,” Mraz performed to a packed house at the historic Riverside Theater. Raining Jane, a female four-piece that collaborated with Mraz on the album, opened the show and played with him throughout the night.
Raining Jane took the stage just after 8 p.m., giving the crowd a taste of their indie-folk combining cello, guitars and unique percussion with dynamic vocal harmonies. After performing a handful of original songs they introduced Mraz, offering an entertaining back-story to their eventual involvement with the talented musician.
The ensemble opened with “A Beautiful Mess,” the first combined effort between Raining Jane and Mraz from his 2008 “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things” album. From there, the evening was a mashup of the many faces of Mraz that ranged from freestyle vocal arrangements to comedic diatribes in and out of song. Older music was given a breath of life behind the eclectic musicianship and vocal harmonies provided by Raining Jane. However, it was Mraz’s vocals that took the performance to another level, while his personality shined as brightly as his voice.
The show was broken into two parts, with a brief intermission, “or inner-mission,’ as described by Mraz, “as time to reflect on one’s inner-self during the break.” Many songs were prefaced with a brief discussion, akin to VH1’s Storytellers, giving a perspective on the forthcoming song. Mraz joked, “I write the same song a lot,” then added, “Here’s the 2007 version of the song you just heard” as he segued from “Best Friend” to “Make It Mine.”
There was a distinct environmental theme during the show. He emphasized climate change and his voyage to Antarctica with Mona Tavakoli of Raining Jane in support of the Climate Reality Project on “Sail Away.” A video backdrop of the song during their expedition was a nice touch, complete with gorgeous imagery and a few comic twists. He later emphasized home gardening with an image and introduction to his backyard garden on “Back to the Earth.”
The pairing with Raining Jane was pure bliss. While their vocal harmonies added depth to Mraz’s vocals, it was their various arrangements and musicianship that backed the performance. Highlights included Tavakoli’s various percussion techniques and bassist Becky Gebhardt switching to sitar for a gorgeous solo that transitioned into “93 Million Miles.”
This is a unique show that should not be missed. It returns to the area with a pair of shows at the Chicago Theater to close out the first leg of the tour on November 7 and 8. Additional dates for the next leg of the tour are expected to be announced following the holidays.
Remaining Jason Mraz with Raining Jane tour dates:
Oct. 21 – Seattle, Wash. – Benaroya Hall
Oct. 22 – Spokane, Wash. – INB Performing Arts Center
Oct. 23 – Vancouver, B.C. – Queen Elizabeth Theater
Oct. 24 – Portland, Ore. – Keller Auditorium
Nov. 5 – Indianapolis, Ind. – Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
Nov. 6 – Detroit, Mich. – Fox Theatre
Nov. 7 – Chicago, Ill. – Chicago Theatre
Nov. 8 – Chicago, Ill. – Chicago Theatre