They may be relative unknowns compared to multi-million- selling, chart-topping head- liner Jason Mraz, but American folk-rock quartet Raining Jane almost stole the thunder from the singer- songwriter's gig here on Monday night.
The all-female band have been around for 15 years and have been making music with the Grammy-winning singer since 2007 but they started gaining popularity only recently, thanks to their high-profile gig as Mraz's backing band on his latest album released this year, Yes!, and the subsequent tour.
He knows it too and it is probably the reason Raining Jane's name is displayed prominently in the gig's monicker.
Thanks to the band, Mraz's laid-back and at times middle-of-the-road tunes were rejuvenated with a fresh sense of enthusiasm.
With a set list that spanned his five- album discography and despite being played with mostly acoustic instruments, this was no passive unplugged show. The songs shone with a newfound dynamism that was missing in Mraz's last Singapore gig in 2012.
Percussionist Mona Tavakoli was a bona fide scene stealer, a firecracker of a drummer with deft moves on various instruments such as the drums, cajon and djembe.
Bass player Becky Gebhardt was nonchalantly cool, until she whipped out a sitar and started shredding on the classical Indian instrument before going into Mraz's 93 Million Miles.
Sterling backing band aside, the audience was clearly there for main man Mraz himself. Decked in trademark fedora, an all-black get-up of long-sleeved T-shirt, slim jeans and sneakers, Mraz's voice was in fine form.
Sipping occasionally from his yellow mug, adorned with the face of Indian spiritual guru Sai Baba and no doubt containing traditional Chinese herbal remedy Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, his gig beverage of choice, he effortlessly tackled the high notes in Mr Curiosity's opera solo.
For all the musical dynamism injected by Raining Jane, Mraz's lyrics still suffered from an overdose of what felt like contrived positivity and optimism.
He even acknowledged that during his in-between song banter, admitting that he had "painted himself into a corner of positivity".
Looking on the bright side all the time takes a lot of effort and he would tell the fans to "create their own rainbow" so many times that it almost became a running gag.
He was candid about how, early in his singing career, he learnt that songs about love got the most attention, hence his dedication to writing love songs.
Mraz the eco-warrior also came to the fore. A famous advocate for the environment, he flashed images of his home garden while singing his paean to gardening, Back To The Earth, and also displayed screen videos taken from an expedition to Antarctica while singing Sail Away.
He was certainly in a chatty mood and his tale of how a cancer-stricken friend inspired his 2002 breakthrough hit, The Remedy (I Won't Worry), as well as his riveting, stripped-down live rendition of the song, made it less corny than the original album version.
Still, at three hours long, including a 15-minute intermission, the pacing of the show could have been better if the gig had fewer stodgy bits, like the snail-pace rendition of A World With You, and let Raining Jane let loose like they did on the upbeat, reggae-rock version of the big Mraz hit, I'm Yours.
This article was first published on Nov 19, 2014.
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