John Mayer Solo Opens Tour at Prudential Center in Newark
John Mayer decided to take it back to 1999 to the early days of Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia, sort of… Playing solo, even playing some of the songs he played there some 20 years ago but now it’s in a much larger room of 19,500 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on a Saturday night.
Mayer’s career over the last 24 years has brought him to this undertaking and risk of playing arenas totally solo. No band, no back-up singers and according to John, “no guitar looping on this tour”. He is known for testing out new songs solo in such small venues as the Hotel Café in L.A. at midnight. His SOB Rock tour last year had an acoustic solo set where the band took a breather for John Mayer to perform some of his beloved acoustic tunes. All of this has prepared him for this next level in his musical career. If Ed Sheeran can do it, then who says John can’t.
The Pru or The Rock as locals call it, had lines waiting for the doors to open. It was a capacity crowd and the lines for merchandise were long waits to get a t-shirt to prove you were there at the tour opener. The audience was a mixed bag of Gen X, Millennials, Gen Zer’s and even a few of us baby boomers. The buzz in the room was what he will play, what won’t he play. John arrived onstage around 9:00 pm in a brown T-shirt and jeans. He opened with “Slow Dancing in A Burning Room” from 2006’s number one album, “Continuum”. One of the best written songs about the end of a relationship. He then took us to the “Born & Raised” album with “Queen of California”. “Shouldn’t Matter But It Does” from SOB Rock. An emotional question of why we are who we are and one of Mayers best written songs from The Search for Everything” is “In the Blood” and a favorite of diehard Mayer fans.
Many songs are a cross between a big sing-along and moments of quiet to listen to Mayer. The sound was pretty good for an arena but there are the nuances you want to hear and it’s not easy in a crowd of 20,000. Being on the floor made it difficult for this, the crowd stood the entire show. Treat it like a listening room and you will get more from the experience in my humble opinion. Back to the setlist, an old video of John promoting “Room for Squares” at Tower Records (miss them) was the set up for “Neon” and that old favorite “Why Georgia”, a sign request for the rarely played “Split Screen Sadness” threw fans into a tizzy. John said he would consider taking suggestions, he was careful not to use the word requests. John covers tracks on all his albums in no chronological order. Another popular song he has played since 2006 is “Stop This Train”. An ode to aging and John talks about worrying about losing his dad when he was 70 and he reports his father is now 95.
Mayer moves to the piano for the more recent hit “New Light” that segues into “Live 4 Ever in Me” and “Changing” in which John gives a master class on playing electric and piano at the same time which is simply amazing. A cover of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin” is another tune John has been playing for years as a huge fan of Tom Petty. John debuted a brand-new song called “Drifting” a bit melancholy but still hopeful tune. One of the most popular songs among serious fans is “In Your Atmosphere”. Not released on a studio album, it is on the live DVD “Where the Light Is”. A beautifully written lyric about lost love in L. A. From the first note on his guitar Mayer had the arena in the palm of his hand for this song. There was banter here and there but mostly it was about the music Working with Dead and Company rubbed off enough that John included “Friend of the Devil” a Grateful Dead cover. The goosebump moment for this writer was “Edge of Desire” from the Battle Studies album. A haunting, sensual song, Mayer played it on a double-neck guitar and quiet lighting was perfect for this emotional extravaganza. Closing out the show with a double dose from “Born & Raised” was “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” which has been talked about being made into a movie. Putting on the harmonica neck rack, John closes the night with the title track from “Born & Raised”.
An incredible evening for JM fans. Wait, someone said “What no “Gravity?”. Mayer has been playing it every tour since 2006 and maybe he needed a break from it. There are so many more songs for this special tour that need to be heard. You can always catch “Gravity” on YouTube. I would rather hear “Covered in Rain”, just a suggestion.
John has chosen several of his favorite current artists to open these shows. For the first show Canadian singer J.P. Saxe opened. His angst-ridden songs are perfect.
Check John Mayer website for tour dates and info.
Vicky Sullivan Photos