Review: Jason Mraz Makes A Night to Remember at The City National Grove in OC

Jason Mraz at City National Grove - Courtesy
Jason Mraz at City National Grove - Courtesy

By DAN MACINTOSH

ANAHEIM, CA – Jason Mraz brought a 13-piece band, which included three backing vocalists and a horn section, to the City National Grove of Anaheim parking lot, for what might have been one of the last Southern California drive-in concerts. Thankfully, it appears as though the spread of the vaccine is finally beginning to bring the pandemic to an end. Hopefully, Mraz plays indoors, (or at one of the finer outdoor venues with seats), the next time he plays in the SoCal area. Tonight, though, Mraz made the best of a restrictive situation and spread plenty of good vibes to his passenger-audience.

Jason Mraz

Mraz announced from the outset how he would be performing his album Look for the Good in its entirety this night. This album, filled with positive lyrics and joyful music, was just what this concert-starved audience needed.

Album (and show) opener, “Look for the Good,” encouraged those gathered to be ‘glass half-filled’ citizens. Seek out the good things in the world, he sang and advised.

Yes, it’s awfully easy to find examples of bad news. Just turn on any network newscast, and you’ll get an earful and eyeful of bad behavior and dark circumstances. With its lyric, though, Mraz is asking his audience to be intentional about being positive-focused. 

Although songs like “Make Love,” which repeats the cliched phrase, “Make love, not war,” could be a little slogan-istic, these hopeful encouragements came off both sincere and relevant. This album, and most of Mraz’s current music, draws upon classic reggae grooves. Although not as lyrically deep as, say, Bob Marley’s influential ‘70s albums, Mraz’s new songs sure sounded like Marley’s pivotal recordings. Distinctive organ touches colored “Wise Woman,” for instance, while plucky electric guitar drove these grooving songs. 

Jason Mraz continues to 'Look For the Good' - Courtesy
Jason Mraz continues to ‘Look For the Good’ – Courtesy

The quieter “Gratitude,” left the greatest emotional mark. With it, Mraz thanked everyone, from his schoolteachers to his parents, for making him the man he is today. Yes, there is a place for speaking out and protesting, whenever wrong’s been done. However, protest must be balanced out with thankfulness. Even during our troubled times, Mraz is still able to find reasons to be thankful. It is one of the goods he’s trying to look for. 

The Molly Miller Trio opened the show with some enjoyable instrumental, jazz-inspired electric guitar music. Miller later joined Mraz for his performance of “Wise Woman,” and remained with the band for the most of this concert’s remainder. 

Jason Mraz’s performance was like a relaxing break from all that’s wrong with the world. He looked and sounded perfectly at home on stage, and he was visibly overjoyed to bring his 2020 album to a concert stage. Even his hit, “I’m Yours,” was decidedly reggae-nized toward the concert’s end. Reggae is, in many cases, the music of peace and love. Maybe these sounds readymade to skank to won’t change the world. However, for a lovely Southern California evening under the stars, it felt like all was right with the world – at least for a few hours. There are plenty of reasons to forget the havoc wreaked by the pandemic, but Jason Mraz gave us a glorious night to fondly remember. Those looking for the good, found it tonight.

Jason Mraz

Drive-in OC at City National Grove of Anaheim

Saturday, April 24