After doing a solid lap around the fairgrounds with my lovely wife, we passed through a cloud of amazing aroma billowing out from the grills at Butcher Boys. No time to stop for grub, we were on a mission.
We arrived at the back of a short line to scan our smartphone and head to our lower-level seats in the grandstands, just minutes away from experiencing a couple of seasoned performers sweep us away in their melodic riffs and charming vocals.
Jason Mraz made a quick appearance to start of the night, personally thanking us for the invitation then introduced the opener, Brett Dennen.
Brett was standing behind Mraz at the center of the stage, foreshadowing the theme of the evening.
He displayed love for his city of origin rocking his Oakland A’s hat. Kicked off the night with “Make you Crazy,” (perhaps a metaphor to make the people of Minnesota crazy seeing as they had crushed the Twins 3 out of 4 games in a series the week before).
He chatted with the crowd, sharing his first-time experience of eating a State Fair pickle earlier in the day. “Thank you, I love this fair. I would not describe it as fair, I would describe it as excellent”, Dennen proclaims. An agreeing roar from the crowd followed.
He proceeded along with what I felt sounded lyrically similar to Gavin Degraw meets Adam Levine with guitar riffs that hint towards Bob Dylan, Sublime, and Weezer. Dennen’s vocal range is amazing; almost hard to know where he will take the melody next.
Later in the show before performing “Hope for the Hopeless,” Dennen expresses his desire to play more of a spread of his songs. “We’re gonna play one we haven’t really played, which is a tragedy, because I think it’s good.”
He played the fan favorites and did very well keeping everyone on their feet, warming up the crowd for Mraz. It would be a cool 30 minutes before his set would begin. As the clouds rolled in, we began to wonder if rain was in our future.
Mraz casually walks on stage in a laid-back stroll with his “friends” almost as if he was floating. He maintained this carefree energy through his performance.
Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky made sure the theme of the whole night was right along with my favorite expression, “Live every day as if it were your last, Love like you’ve never been hurt and Dance like no one is watching.”
Especially the last two parts. Mraz said he wanted to incorporate Love into all of his songs now and even made the suggestion that the world replace the “F” word with love and proceeded to rattle off fair examples.
”Those are some Lovin’ good Sweet Martha’s Cookies!” He even went so far as to encourage the whole crowd to physically feel the love in the air.
After playing his way mostly through “93 Million Miles,” a song he said he wrote for his parents, he asked everyone to take a deep breath in. He told us that was home and we were always welcome at home.
It was perfectly fitting as moments later, the rain picked up and the crowd on the floor scattered to the grandstand under the covered portion to enjoy the concert in a dry area. It was then when I felt the comfort of home.
The storm did help the next segment of the concert. The five band members crowded around one microphone in the middle of the stage with two amplified guitars, a ukulele, cello and bongos.
Mraz joked about it being the only mic that was working because of the rain, but that may have been a fib.
They sang in lovely harmony and segued into a dedication to the late Aretha Franklin. They absolutely energized the grandstand.
Mraz spoke of how he performed “Respect” in a talent show in sixth grade and through random situations, he knew he was destined to play with certain “friends.”
I honestly kind of laughed to myself right when Mraz started the show, not because they all walked out in different colored coveralls, mentioning they could help if we had automotive trouble later, but because he thanked everyone for inviting him and for singing and dancing.
He had yet to play a note; yet to sing a word. By the time Mraz was belting his beloved “I’m Yours” to the crowd, spreading the love, the reverse was true. He wasn’t ours. We were theirs!
Mraz and Friends held us all as we danced and sang together, having fun with improv lyrics, ”Love, Love, Love…Deep Fried Love…Pickle, Pickle, Love!”
I believe anytime you have thousands of all ages fans screaming about pickle love in unison, the show should be considered a success!
Both Dennen and Mraz have a knack to spread the love and dance like nobody is watching. Although they might not be asked to get fifty backup dancers and perform for halftime at the next Super Bowl, there is no doubt anyone watching their show would smile and feel the love.
I look forward to the next time I get to see them and feel the good vibes! In fact, if I close my eyes I can clearly see a perfect little fantasy where Mr. A to Z would come ask me, “If I make it back to your fine city, would it be you in the crowd looking back at me?” I’d simply say, “You’re Lovin’ Right!” He’d respond, “You Lovin’ Better Be!”