Mason Jennings

Posted January 5, 2009 in
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Mason Jennings
The Murray Theater
Zach Gill

Having never been to the Murray Theater outside of seeing a hypnotist there somewhere around 10 or 12 years ago, I was interested to see how it would work for a concert and I must say I was impressed.

Walking into the theater there were a couple of tiers of seats and below was an open floor for standing that went right up to the stage, which was about 4 ft. high. The sound was surprisingly exceptional as well. The place had a good vibe for a show of this caliber and had me primed for what would be a show to remember.

Zach Gill, a one man act, who played everything from keyboard to accordion, strange noise-makers and more, played to a mostly receptive crowd. No doubt he is a very talented artist, however, I did not fully “feel,” his sound. It was something akin to Jack Johnson’s Curious George songs in both sound and maturity level. His songs were at times too simple and predictable, causing a loss of interest for me. Though I felt as I did, many were all over this one-man-extravaganza.

My last outing to see Mason Jennings was good, but at the same time hard to swallow due to the slow pace of his chosen set list. It was great, but too many slow songs and standing for a few hours makes most a little tired and unenthused, so I was anxious to see what kind of a set he would play for this show. Having just released his seventh album, In The Ever recently, there was no shortage of crowd-pleasing options to choose from.

From the moment Jennings walked out on stage until exiting the stage for the final time, he played the widest variety of songs from his seven albums I have ever heard live. I dare say he played nearly half of everything he’s released. It was a long and fulfilling set of classics, such as the legendary crowd favorite, Butterfly, but it was so much more than the catchy songs with a hip beat. The show’s tempo was taken from fast, to slow, to everything in between and all at a flow that felt more natural than the sun rising each morning or me drinking my 100th Diet Pepsi of the month. Surprisingly enough, he opted not to play another huge show sing-a-long and fan-favorite, Bullet. I almost respected him more for it because it gave more time to hear some of the less-frequently played songs.

Jennings’ musical comedy was well displayed in the singing of a new, unrecorded song discussing all the ways to die, stemming from his recently becoming paranoid and making light of people (including himself) who start to fear too many ridiculous things. Other new, unrecorded material dealt with less sarcastic and more serious subject matter like the environment and had a Birds Flying Away feel.

Throughout the years, Jennings has successfully explored many musical styles, yet somehow without too far of a departure from his signature sound. He played several songs from his last album, Boneclouds, which to-date is his most musically diverse album. His latest, In The Ever, is a return to form of sorts. Still showing that he is trying new things and ever-evolving, but also going back more to his simple guitar-in-hand, by-himself-style, of which he played a good number of tracks from as well.

When the night concluded, I can’t imagine that anyone could say he favored material from one album more than another or that they didn’t hear nearly all of their favorite songs. I pity any Mason fan that opted not to go to this show. They will never completely understand how large of a mistake it was, but because the show was well attended, hopefully their friends will try and help them to understand and encourage them not to make that mistake ever again. –Jeremy C. Wilkins