By Ben Marcus
It was a dark and chilly night in Southern California at the Santa Monica Pier where thousands of music fans braved the cold weather and came to the beach for a free concert put on by Jack Johnson. The concert was orchestrated to announce Johnson's fifth studio album, To the Sea, which was released on June 1 - and also his 2010 tour, which will start in Germany on June 16 and play 50 dates around the world, ending in Queensland, Australia in December.
Many of the thousands of music fans who came to the beach had participated in beach cleanups along Los Angeles County that earned them a free ticket to the concert. Most of the music fans took up positions on the beach south of the Pier, where Rob Machado's latest surf movie, The Drifter, played on a giant screen TV as the sun went down and the Los Angeles sky turned purple and blue.
Jack Johnson played on a stripped-down stage on the Santa Monica Pier, close to the Ferris Wheel. There were a few hundred special guests just below the stage, while several thousand on the beach watched the show on the big screen.
Johnson came on stage and started with the first single off his new album, "You and Your Heart." It sounded good, it sounded like Jack Johnson, the former professional surfer whose goal to become a moviemaker was sidetracked by an unexpected music career that has sold more than 20 million records and made him an international superstar.
The love for Jack was all around at Santa Monica, despite the cold. After the first song, Johnson spoke to the crowd. "The reason this show is free is we haven't played together in a month. We're preparing for a big tour and we have to tighten up." The crowd loved that and then they performed some of his greatest hits, including "Upside Down," "If I Had Eyes," "Same Girl," and "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing."
Johnson also did a ukulele version of "Breakdown" and "Staple It Together" and covered the Steve Miller Band’s "The Joker" and Bob Marley's "Mellow Mood."
It was cold. Really cold. Jack Johnson even commented on the cold, but stayed warm in a puffy Patagonia jacket, while thousands of fans huddled together and took in the Hawaiian-sun warmth of Jack Johnson's music, and stayed for the whole show, which went until around 10:00.
At the end of the night, Jack Johnson reminded all the good people on the beach to pick up after themselves - because clean beaches are what the concert was all about. Johnson came back out for a solo encore of "Better Together" and then he was gone, to get warm and rest up and prepare for his 2010 To the Sea Tour, which will play more than 50 dates from June to December, from Europe to the UK to the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
The next night, Jack Johnson's manager Emmett Malloy was in Santa Monica at a showing of his cousin Chris Malloy's movie 180 South. Emmett still looked cold, and he admitted that Jack's show was "...brutal, but we pulled it off, and it was a good launch to the album and the tour."
Emmett Malloy is responsible for many of the logistics of the To the Sea tour, while also doing his own movie and music projects. Emmett and Jack are in for a long six months of touring, but it's not such a bad thing, when Jack is almost guaranteed to sell two to three million records. "And Jack will be donating the proceeds of the entire tour to his Kokua Foundation," Malloy said. While Malloy wouldn't say just how much that was, Jack Johnson's shows are already selling out months in advance and that could mean millions of dollars flowing a lot of aloha to Hawaii from their favorite son.
Icelandic volcanoes permitting, Jack Johnson's To the Sea Tour begins in Germany on June 16 and then goes to France and then the UK. Round round get around, it will take a few months for Jack to make it back to California, and hopefully the weather will be better by then.
Jack's first California shows will be at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on October 5 and 6, then a whirlwind tour through the first half of October to Hollywood, Chula Vista, Phoenix, and Irvine before what appears to be a triumphant homecoming at the Santa Barbara Bowl on October 13 and 14 - because both shows are already sold out, six months in advance.
After that Jack will be off to the lands down under for shows in New Zealand and Australia. And then he's gonna go home and surf, surf, surf.