Jason Mraz: Don't worry, be sunny

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2009 - 6:26 AM

The record-setting "I'm Yours" hitmaker left the Twin Cities crowd in a blissed-out state of mind.

Jason Mraz brought his Gratitude Café tour to Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday night, and he clearly knew how to please his 11,014 fans. He has performed frequently in the Twin Cities.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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This week, San Diego singer-songwriter Jason Mraz set the record for the longest run by one song on Billboard's Hot 100 -- 70 weeks for "I'm Yours." On Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center, he set the Minnesota record for the most groovily blissful concert by a singer wearing a hat.

And a fu manchu. And a faded "Endless Summer" T-shirt. Mraz, 32, is the kind of guy who calls everyone in the arena brothers and sisters and calls sunshine his best friend of the summertime. He is the kind of guy who invites a couple onstage to slow-dance -- so the fellow can pop the question to his lady. He is the kind of guy who orchestrates a stadium-like crowd wave around the room, and writes, in chalk, on the floor in the arena lobby: "Welcome. Thank you for choosing (choosing underlined) to be here. JM."

The fedora-wearing dude is riding a wave of popularity with "I'm Yours," "Lucky" and other sweet, sunny hits. Mraz's sound suggests a meeting of James Taylor, Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews in a greeting-card shop. It's one part acoustic reggae/folk/hip-hop and one part brassy granola soul, tied together by Mraz's emotive and strikingly rangy voice. It all adds up to a laid-back, organic, don't-worry-be-happy vibe.

Mraz trotted out his friends for various songs -- the unknown Margot B for "Lucky," microphone-shy Ben Howard (who's he?) for "Details in Fabric" and opening acts K'Naan and G. Love for "Curbside Prophet," a free-styling hip-hop workout. A three-man horn section participated during only parts of the 115-minute program. And Mraz and his rhythm section did a stripped-down acoustic set on a small stage at the back of the arena.

Mraz was less goofy and cutesy than in his previous club appearances. But he clearly knew how to work a room of 11,014 mostly female fans. At one point, he teasingly asked the women to sing along real low on "I'm Yours" and then he urged the men -- the couple thousand there -- to sing falsetto.

"I'm Yours," paired with Bob Marley's beatific "Three Little Birds," was clearly the emotional high point of the night. "Remedy," Mraz's first hit from 2003, received an appealing reggae makeover while "Coyotes" indulged in big words ("telepathic rendezvous"), big ideas (mock opera vocalizing) and a big momentum killer (Mraz's acoustic guitar wouldn't work afterward).

A veteran of many Twin Cities performances in the '00s, Mraz had a great sense of place, mentioning the Twins, the Wild (he wore a customized Wild jersey) and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, where he said he once worked as a pickle boy. Talk about your blissful summers wearing a hat.

For a set list, go to www.startribune. com/poplife

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719

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