Jack Johnson is hot. That’s not a comment on his physique, by the way – or even on his career at the moment. It’s merely a pitied assumption, since, considering the sweltering and often truly unbearable heat and humidity that washed over a sold out crowd of just over five thousand of his fans at the Eventim Apollo, being subjected to the added warmth of stage lighting and the exhaustion of performance – well, let’s just say it can’t have been pleasant.
It never showed. Johnson and his band (we’ll come onto them in a moment) took to the stage after a dreary and unimpressively pedestrian support set by Californian singer-songwriter Matt Costa. Support acts should, in an ideal world, never have to be stringently compared against the act they’re supporting, but it’s really hard not to when there’s such disparity in quality between the two. Fraught by some poor sound quality and a collection of songs that were in no way bad, yet without a doubt uninteresting, Costa’s set, unfortunately, left a lot to be desired.
The headliner act, however, offered up a hugely impressive two hours of vigorous, crowd-pleasing energy. It may be testament as much to Johnson’s fans as to himself and his ability to play to a crowd, but the atmosphere in the Apollo that night overrode any and all discomfort caused by that ridiculous heat. It’s not hard to see why that crowd was so pleased by his live show; backed by a fantastic stage and lighting set-up, complete with psychedelic imagery projected onto towers of wooden slats, and supported by a backing band that were given their dues as musicians and showmen every bit as much as Johnson himself.
His band are worth more than a mention too. Bassist Merlo Podlewski and drummer Adam Topol were given their chances to shine, but it was pianist, organist, accordionist, melodica-player and occasional vocalist Zach Gill who utterly and entirely stole the show. Every bit the frontman as Johnson himself – if not more so – Gill effortlessly and often switched from swaying idleness to the side of the stage to centre-stage accordion riffage and standing atop his own piano to deliver a melodica solo.
Gill was doubtlessly the most entertaining surprise of the night and Johnson is worth seeing live for him alone. That’s not to say that Johnson was overshadowed by Gill either – the two complemented each other just fine, and delivered a sort of equal harmony of stage charisma. Having, essentially, two frontmen is a risky strategy indeed but it’s one that is pulled off here with ease.
Summer’s not over yet – not by a long shot – and if you’re attending any shows over the next few weeks, they’re probably going to be hot. They might even be insufferably so. Unfortunately, some of those shows might not be worth the physical exertion of attending them. That’s not the case here. Jack Johnson may be hot, and you definitely will be, but it really will be worth it.