CityFolk review: Jack Johnson Plays the Joker, Not the Fool

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the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. 

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Jack Johnson

After some tense light rigging, Johnson surprisingly opened on "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" bringing lush keyboard solos and a soulful delivery that started the set off right. Switching to the cool beats and riff of "You and Your Heart", he gave killer hook after hook. Moving from downbeat chords to some ecstatic cries, "Flake" turned the show into a party well before they started tickling the ivories.

"Badfish" found all the bright reggae infused guitars leaving more sun on the Cityfolk crowd than you would expect for a 9 p.m. concert. Mixing a deep groove with his choppy guitar playing, Johnson was sassy as he played "Inaudible Melodies" even throwing out a solo or two.

Reading out an audience members sign that read "Ohana means family" Johnson quickly quipped "It's good you mention family because this one's for all the kids in the crowd" before launching into a understated rendition of "Upside Down". Keeping the complex emotions rolling, he quickly switched to "Go On" with real tone of pain in his voice as he sang to the adoring crowd.

After playing new tracks like "My Mind Is For Sale", and creamy love songs like "Wasting Time," Johnson started to bring the set home, letting his band sing verses to loud cheers from the crowd. Johnson pulled out cheeky guitar licks as the band kept switching gears until they ended up going into Steve Miller's "The Joker", even closing the song with a melodica solo from on top of their piano. Along with some medleys that led into "Whole Lotta Love," there was a full dance mood in the last part of the band's set before Johnson closed with "Good People."           

Family Crest

Between their seven members, Family Crest releases their soaring folk ballads across the stage with righteous energy. Delivering sweeping arrangements between all their singers and healthy serving of brass and string players their set kept the energy going.

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

Bringing his own set of brass to the stage, Nathaniel Rateliff carried a heat between him and the seven other members of the Night Sweats. Along with his genuine glee to be on stage there was something particularly magical about his horn driven upbeat blues. Rateliff took things down for some more emotional numbers in the middle of his set, almost seeming teary eyed at times as he stirred up the crowd into the bands huge harmonies.

Tackling the last half of his set with a fury, the brass came alive and solos were flying from just about every member of the band as Rateliff donned his own guitar. Thanking the crowd for letting him tour for so long he doubled down as he mentioned all the work he'd been able to do for the homeless and veterans thanks to fans' support. Moving into "Shake" he took the crowd through his psychedelic grooves as he moved his own hips to the music. Closing on "S.O.B." he raised the crowd into a frenzy of clapping and loud singing. The ending was so explosive that along with his guitar tossing he even managed to shatter a tambourine into bits. Coming down to the amps to dance his set down, his ankles turned to rubber as he showed everyone just how excited he was to be here.

Photos by Andre Gagne