by Colin Roedel
Jack Johnson walked onto the stage at DTE Music Theater, picked up his guitar, and immediately starting strumming to his song “Hope.” Not a word, wave, or introduction was provided to the thousands of people in the audience. However, one might argue it wasn’t necessarily needed, as his name was on the ticket. What was unusual, however, is that he decided to wear flip flops to complete his T-shirt and baggy jeans ensemble. The acoustic singer/songwriter is somewhat of a hippie, and notorious for performing barefoot.
Unlike most musicians, he barely moves around the stage while singing. Just him and his guitar, he sways while singing, although never with his eyes open. “Never trust a musician who plays with their eyes open. All the good stuff happens when they’re closed,” sang Johnson while preforming “I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man” with guest musician John Craigie.
Johnson is anything but a superstar. He has no “star power”, no flashy gimmick or sex appeal. Yet, he is still able to fill one of the largest music venues in Michigan. I can only attribute this to a rare skill he seems to have, “likeableness.” He genuinely seems like a great guy.
As a former pro-surfer, Johnson is an outspoken environmentalist strongly focused on ocean clean up. The whole concert highlights trash found in the ocean, with a large fishnet backdrop and lit mason jars with ocean trash inside strung across the auditorium. Outside the venue, charities and other non-profits set up booths to promote ocean cleanup and environmental sustainability.
Often when I mention his music, people respond with, “Who’s that?” I explain that they have probably heard his music at a restaurant or mall, but his humble mannered personality makes it difficult to put the face to the song. This is because Johnson doesn’t just shy away from the limelight, he completely avoids it. I was unable to find any negative headlines or tabloids that might surround the singer, and maybe that’s why he’s loved so much: he’s just this average guy.
I can’t help but feel that whether he’s preforming at a sold-out arena or a local coffee shop, you would still get the same performance. Johnson’s demeanor is of someone you feel like you could run into on the street. At the end of the day, he’s not focused on the money, the “razzle dazzle,” or even the crowd size. All Jack Johnson is focused on is what everyone came for, the music.