Mason Jennings Solo at the Variety Playhouse June 19, 2010

The last time I saw Mason Jennings was at the same venue just over two years ago.  That show also happened to be my first date with a  girl who is now my wife, so needless to say it was fun to get to relive the experience from a very different perspective.

The big difference in the show is that this time it was just Mason, solo acoustic.  I honestly didn’t know if I’d get tired of that setup before the end of the show, but I did not – the show was fantastic. The show was entirely seated – even the general admission area up front had plastic tables and chairs set up, so that set the mood for a mellow evening.  It felt a lot like that VH1 show that was on a few years ago called “Storytellers.”  He told a little back story about most of the songs, and it really did a great job of setting them up and giving them new dimensions when he played them.

One of the stories I remembered is when he was describing a girl he used to date, and the two of them had drastically different taste in music.  He said she was into a style of music called “boots and cats,” which is music where the drum part always goes “boots n cats n boots n cats n boots n cats n” (try it out loud, you’ll get it).  She always complained that anything he played didn’t even have drums in it.  He said it’s a tough position to be in ’cause they liked each other but didn’t see eye to eye on most things.  That was the back story to the song “Nothing.”

The other one I remember is the back story to the new version of “The Field.”  He described it as his attempt to make sense of the Iraq war (which had started on his birthday).  He had talked to a lot of people who were either in the armed forces or close to those who were.  Specifically he mentioned a friend’s brother who was a soldier and a poet stationed in Iraq.  He said that through an unconscious prejudice he had previously been unable to think of a soldier and a poet as traits possible in one person.  Somehow reading the poetry of someone who appreciate the beauty of all of the details of Iraq made it that much harder to accept what was going on in the war, especially when he learned this poet/soldier has been killed.  Again this was a powerful setup for the song which he went on to play.

My wife and I snuck up to the front for the encores (and were able to get the fairly close-up picture above).  The show was a little short, probably just under 90 minutes, but it was fantastic – probably even better than the last show we saw.  To top it all off, he encouraged everyone to hang around the merchandise table and he would come say hello to everyone after the show.  A large portion of the crowd did just that (especially the high school & college girls), and he did indeed come out, sign autographs, take pictures and make friendly small talk.  Very cool of him.  I’m sure we’ll see him again whenever he comes back.

Full Set list:

  1. Fighter Girl
  2. Which way your heart will go
  3. Be here now
  4. Your new man
  5. Nothing
  6. Ballad for my one true love
  7. Lonely Road
  8. The Field (old song that he rediscovered)
  9. The Field (off of Blood of Man)
  10. California (Part II)
  11. The Fisherman
  12. Jackson Square
  13. Living in the Moment
  14. Hospitals and Jails
  15. Pittsburgh
  16. I love you and Budda too
  17. Crown


  1. Butterfly
  2. Bullet
  3. Keepin it Real

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