by Dan Radin, San Antonio, Texas
Present-day John Mayer isn’t the womanizing guitar hero that the tabloids once despised. Mayer’s show this week unearthed him not only as a mature musician, but also a self-searching adult who has markedly come into his own.
It’s been a “long, strange trip” for Mayer. From his Atlanta days, when “Your Body Is a Wonderland” exploded over the airwaves, to touring as the Jerry Garcia stand-in with Dead and Company, Mayer’s seen a lot of growth. And if his set at on Saturday is any indication, he is “not done changing.”
Every iteration of Mayer’s music came into the fray at AT&T Center. He locked in as a bluesman on his Fender, while his mini acoustic set drew shrieks of joy from the 70% female audience. He couldn’t have asked more from his dynamic backing band, who played air-tight together: long-time collaborator Pino Palladino (The Who, etc.) on bass, keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac, vocalists Tiffany Palmer/Carlos Ricketts, percussion section Aaron Sterling/Aaron Draper, guitar phenoms Isaiah Sharkey and David Ryan Harris.
Mayer generously featured each of the band members throughout the set; most notably, Sharkey’s solo on the “If I Ever Get Around to Living” jam, and Harris’s absolutely soul-waking rendition of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” going into “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” Mayer can shine on his own just fine in the limelight- but it’s clear that it’s just as important to him now to surround himself with world-class talent.
Mayer’s other musical friendships were subtly on display as well. At the end of the first set, he snuck in a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Deal.” Through the course of the evening, he also sported a “92 Til Infinity” long-sleeve T, an homage to friend and Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller, who passed away a year ago to the day. Just as he showcased his band on stage, Mayer made sure to recognize his friends who couldn’t be there that night.
And of course, Mayer masterfully ripped the guitar himself. He threw down tastefully intrepid solos on “Helpless,” “Rosie,” and “I Don’t Trust Myself (Loving You)” that made the boyfriends in the crowd look up from their phones. Slow-burners “Gravity” and “Slow Dancing” built and exhaled with spirited grace. He exuded a relaxation that made the entire arena feel comfortable.
The anthemic energy of Mayer’s new single “Carry Me Away” (released just Friday) was the night’s biggest surprise. While the song’s studio recording didn’t best capture the holy energy we witnessed in the room, the live rendition re-instilled my faith in Mayer’s artistic vision.
The post-intermission acoustic set won the award for audience favorite. Starting with his adaption of Beyoncé’s “XO” with harmonica, and sliding into live recording deep cut “In Your Atmosphere,” Mayer reminded that at 41 years young, he can still melt hearts. It was also the most he opened up on the mic between songs.
Mayer consciously made sure his “stupid mouth” stayed out of the way. “I don’t wanna talk too much. Thirty seconds of talking on stage is like 8 minutes of talking. Let’s get back to the music.” Mayer’s only miscalculation of the evening was staying off the mic between songs- those were exactly the most memorable moments. His re-telling of a woman rudely waving her goodbye to him en route to an early exit got bellylaughs. He then went on to discuss what vernacular is socially acceptable at age 41. “I can get away with ‘dope.’ But I’m too old for ‘fire.’”
Maturity (musically or otherwise) is something that can’t be rushed and in Mayer’s case, we’re glad he took his time. I think, finally, Mayer is ready for action, and done “waiting on the world to change.”
See tons of concert photos on Austin 101.
Something Like Olivia
I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Love on the Weekend
No Such Thing
Moving On and Getting Over
Deal (Grateful Dead cover)
XO (Beyoncé cover)
Your Body Is a Wonderland
In Your Atmosphere
Carry Me Away
If I Ever Get Around to Living
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
In the Blood
Waiting on the World to Change
Gravity (With snippet from “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember”)
Edge of Desire