Jason Mraz - Manchester Academy 1
Returning to Manchester in support of his now selling-like-pork-pie-hats third album, 'We Sing We Dance We Steal Things', Mraz bounds onto stage with barely concealed glee. He's been on the brink of breaking through for years now but, quietly, aided by love-it-or-love-it single 'I'm Yours' taking up recent residence in the airwaves, he's something of a big deal. The cavernous Academy is packed. A sunny Friday evening has the crowd warmed up and an easy vibe permeates.
And, for the most part, Mraz and his ridiculously large (I started counting and had to stop) band, deliver in spades. There's something for everyone, with songs from all three albums. The delivery is as loose as you like and it's impressive just how so many musicians take their cue from, seemingly, a wink or a nod from their leader. 'I'm Yours' sends the place wild. 'Make it Mine', 'Only Human', a bubbling singalong-a-'Butterfly', all keep things buzzing. If it wasn't for the actual length of the set - it feels like he's on for hours - and the jazzy workouts that, at times, test the patience, I'd have headed home on quite a high. I dunno - maybe it was just disappointment that the lovely Colbie Caillat didn't pop up for their duet 'Lucky'. To be fair, Mraz is an engaging enough showman and a charmer with his between-song patter and I try not to raise too much of an eyebrow at just how many ladies seem to have a 'thing' for a scrawny bloke who looks like a young Billy Joel. Hey, probably the heat.
All said, hardly thrilling, of course, but fun nevertheless. Mraz is the kind of singer I'd happily, but casually, go and see if I ever found myself stuck in a strange town looking for a gig to fill the evening. He entertains like it's going out of fashion, he more than earns his pay cheque, and he fills a room with miles of smiles. If his particular furrow means that you see him as more of a Mr A to M (than Z), then that's your call. But in this particular corner of of the world, you'd have to fight thousands to get a view like that into court.