There was no better way to end our little road trip of western United States than an evening with one of my favorite contemporary musicians, John Mayer. Although some of his more recent work may drift a little too close to the middle of the road for yours truly’s liking, there’s no doubting his ability as a musician. Mayer is also one of those guys that seems to be at his best when performing in concert and it’s his live recordings like Try, Any Given Sunday and Where the Light is which get the most plays in car stereo. Having become a Mayer fan after the last time he was in Dubai (UAE Desert Rythem Festival 2006), I was sure not to miss him this time.
Having driven all the way down from San Francisco the same day, I got to the Hollywood Bowl just as Johnny came on, unfortunately missing opener Owl City. Unlike many artists who make their audience wait endlessly before coming on, Mayer was out bang smack right at 7.30 – treating us to a four-song acoustic taster that included “Stop this Train” and three covers; Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary”, “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith and an inspiring duet with pianist Brad Mehldau of the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”.
Live - John Mayer is a completely different experience than in the studio. Although I do love most of his records, you can often tell he’s holding back a little. Fortunately, this is not the case in concert as he constantly lets himself go on the guitar throughout, while also allowing his co-musicians the occasional moment in the spotlight. This is immediately evident the moment he gets onstage and begins belting out the guitar solo jam of “Cabin Fever” before wah-wahing his way through the funky “Vultures”. Mayer’s voice has also come a long way as can be heard in the way he belts out the newer tracks like “Perfectly Lonely”.
As this was the Battle Studies tour, the majority of the tracks played on the night came from his latest record with a handful from his previous release Continuum. This is something I liked as Mayer has released his older stuff live on CD numerous times so it was nice to hear how the newer tracks went down live. The addition of the rather obscure “Do You Know Me?”, in which he acknowledged that only the ‘true fans’ would know, was a pleasant surprise. He played only one song each from his first two records, “Why Georgia” and the brilliant “Clarity”, as well as a cover of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t no Sunshine”. Although Mayer only played a total of about 17 songs, it was not exactly a short concert as the songs were all made longer well beyond their studio time with awesome jam sessions and extended guitar solos, as well as Mayer’s trademark stage-patter humor – which he displayed throughout the night. I do feel however that he could have extended his encore a bit which was only one song, “Edge of Desire” – a surprise but very good song as it contains one my all time favorite JM guitar riffs.
The whole show can be downloaded in MP3 here:
Acoustic (w/Brad Mehldau): Wind Cries Mary, Can't Find My Way Home, Going To California > Stop This Train, Bittersweet Symphony, Main set: Chest Fever > Vultures, Clarity, Why Georgia, Ain't No Sunshine, Perfectly Lonely, I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You), Heartbreak Warfare, Gravity, Who Says, Waiting on the World to Change, Do You Know Me, Half of My Heart > Don't Stop Believing, Encore: Edge of Desire