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Jack Johnson brings mellow vibe to Chicago’s Northerly Island

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Jack Johnson live concert during 2014 tour at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion in Chicago

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Supporting his sixth studio album, “From Here To Now To You,” Jack Johnson performed in concert at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion in Chicago on May 31. Fans poured into the outdoor venue on Northerly Island near Soldier Field, with attendance that was near capacity. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros opened the show, which began at 7:30 p.m.

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It was the final night for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to support Jack Johnson’s summer tour. Their hour-long opening set was a brief glimpse into the mind of frontman Alex Ebert. He somehow manages to walk the border between order and chaos, while leading the band through song. Ebert even pushed multi-instrumentalist Mark Noseworthy into creating “something new,” before following his lead with a few impromptu verses. Smiling, Ebert declared, “That’s going to be a future song.” Sorely missing from the lineup was vocalist Jade Castrinos, though “Crash” Richard lent his support on lead vocals late into their set.

Johnson recently appeared at the historic Chicago Theatre last October. While an intimate setting is always preferred to a larger outdoor show, the warm summer air and festival-like scene offered a surreal feeling as Johnson took the stage at 9 p.m. The mood was further heightened when the Navy Pier fireworks kicked off in the distance at 10:15 p.m., and was felt by most of the crowd that sang and danced their way through the evening.

Musically, the show could not have been better. From Johnson’s unwavering, pristine vocals to the crisp strum of his acoustic guitar, the sound was mixed to perfection. Subtle percussion dealt by Adam Topol on drums tied in nicely with Merlo Podlewski’s bass play. Zach Gill brought everything together with vocal harmonies, a handful of lead verses and plenty of lively play on piano, accordion and various other instruments through the night.

Songs seemed to be evenly divided between his six studio albums. “I Got You,” “Radiate,” “Tape Deck” and the spirited “Shot Reverse Shot” from his latest album were peppered into a show that was laced with hits. Early performances of “Taylor” and “Sitting, Wishing, Waiting” ensured fans were on their feet and singing along from the start.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros joined Johnson onstage near the start of his set for Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and The Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon.” Johnson noted, “We usually bring these guys on toward the end, but it’s the last night of the tour for them and they’ve got to get to Houston.”

After performing “Inaudible Melodies” and “Flake” Johnson said, “It was awesome to ride our bikes to the show tonight,” while also referencing the near-perfect weather. He asked, “Anybody ride a mile up the lake? It’s like Cancun over there.” He added, “There’s techno music coming from the boats. It’s amazing.”

Johnson was expert at seamlessly moving between songs. “Tape Deck” transitioned fluidly into a verse of Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”—complete with a shoutout to South Side, Chicago—before leading into “Banana Pancakes.” There was never a dull moment, including for Johnson who admitted to “swallowing” more than a few bugs that plagued the venue during the course of the night.

The tour campaigns for supporting hand-chosen community groups across North America that advance the notion of sustainable local food systems and plastic-free initiatives via All At Once Non-Profit Partners. Eco-friendly tour merchandise and environmental greening actions have also been part of Jack Johnson’s tour regimen for the past several years.

Remaining North American Jack Johnson tour dates:

6/1 – Indianapolis, Ind. - The Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn ^

6/3 – Atlanta, Ga. - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre ^

6/5 – Columbia, Md. - Merriweather Post Pavilion ^

6/6 – Philadelphia, Pa. - Mann Center of the Performing Arts ^

6/7 – Wantagh, N.Y. - Nikon at Jones Beach ^

6/10 – Brooklyn, N.Y. - Celebrate Brooklyn %

6/22 – Dover, Del. - Firefly Music Festival

8/18 – Denver, Colo. - Red Rocks Amphitheatre *

8/21 – Vancouver, B.C. - Deer Lake Park *

8/23 – Quincy, Wash. - Gorge Amphitheatre ^*

8/24 – Bend, Ore. - Les Schwab Amphitheatre *

8/26 – Berkeley, Calif. - Greek Theatre *

8/27 – Los Angeles, Calif. - Greek Theatre *

8/28 – Los Angeles, Calif. - Greek Theatre *

8/30 – San Diego, Calif. - RIMAC Field at UC San Diego *

8/31 – Santa Barbara, Calif. - Santa Barbara Bowl *
9/1 – Santa Barbara, Calif. - Santa Barbara Bowl *

Supporting acts:
^ Amos Lee
% Bahamas
* Michael Kiwanuka

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