UPDATE:Jack Johnson will be appearing at the world premiere of Jack Johnson: En Concert on Saturday, October 10, 7 p.m., at the Arlington Theatre.
People freakin’ love Jack Johnson. There is no denying this fact after watching the first 10 minutes of En Concert, the new film documenting Johnson’s European tour in the wet and wild summer of 2008. The hands-in-the-air, blissed-out, screaming love that fans show again and again for the part-time Montecito resident as he plays venues big and small-often in weather conditions that would make 97 percent of Santa Barbarians stay in their bed and hide -is a remarkable demonstration of the power of his music.
But as the film progresses and the camera’s low-profile pan shadows Johnson and his friends in both public and private moments, you start to understand the power of the man himself-a simple, honest guy who loves his family and surfing, wears jeans, a T-shirt, and flip-flops on a daily basis, and gets true joy from playing music. In short, En Concert is a pitch-perfect testament to the refreshing realness of Jack Johnson.
A stripped-down production, En Concert was a somewhat accidental creation. Emmett Malloy, a close friend of Johnson’s long before he even knew Johnson was a singer/songwriter, became documenter and the film’s chief architect when he started casually filming the tour. “There was no big plan,” explained Malloy, a music-industry mogul in his own right. “I just figured this was a big tour, probably the biggest of Jack’s career, and I thought, if for no other reason than to have something cool for us to look back on in 20 years, we should document it.”
But as the tour passed through places like Berlin, the Netherlands, and Paris during one of the coldest and rainiest European summers in recent memory, Malloy-who, it should be noted, has a film and music video-making resume on par with the best of them-realized he and his two-camera crew were getting the goods. “About halfway through, I started thinking, ‘Wow, we are really getting it this time.’ Then we hit Hyde Park and I had one of the biggest ‘holy shit’ moments of my life. : It really felt magical,” he said. At the London venue, a week’s worth of miserable weather finally cleared as Johnson took the stage in front of 45,000 people (the time-lapse footage of fans filing into Hyde Park is a minute-long bit of brilliance), and the sense of joy that washes over the crowd and the musicians as the sun begins to shine is so pronounced that it feels like it
walks off the screen and sits down next to you.
While the music is the raison d’tre of the film, it is by no means the whole show. You get classic visits from some of Johnson’s more famous friends like G. Love, Ben Harper, Mason Jennings, and Matt Costa. You get Johnson river-surfing in Germany and riding waves in England on borrowed gear. You get Zach Gill’s killer dance moves and kooky cane swings, you get quiet backstage moments, lightning strikes, and impromptu jam sessions while also being served up enjoyable and heaping doses of artsy, often black-and-white footage of Europe itself.
If you have ever seen the classic surf movie Thicker Than Water-a film made in part by Malloy and Johnson before the music world discovered the latter-then you already have an idea of the intimate and somewhat unorthodox viewing experience provided by En Concert.
“It is as much about where we were going and where we were as it is about the music and the venues,” summed up Malloy. With a recipe like that, all the humongous sing-alongs with people who don’t even speak English but know all the words becomes an added bonus rather than meat-and-potatoes status that such clips enjoy in most other rockumentaries.
The world premiere of Jack Johnson’s concert film En Concert will be Saturday, October 10, at 7 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre. Tickets are $12. Visit newnoisesb.com for more information.