Sarasota/Bradenton’s Vicky Sullivan of The Sarasota Post was out in Los Angeles, CA and had the opportunity to see John Mayer’s’s concert and wrote this fabulous review.
John Mayer had two sold-out shows on Friday & Saturday nights at the world-famous Forum in L.A. Built in 1967, the Forum was groundbreaking in its structure and housed the Lakers and the L.A. Kings until 1999. It is a great venue for live shows, sound was good. Seating 17,500 on Friday night were John Mayer fans in every form! Young and old, Mayer has brought some Deadheads to his shows from his work with Dead & Company, as well as his base of Gen X peers who have been along for the Mayer ride since his 2001 debut album “Room for Squares”, and everyone else in between.
Speaking of “Squares”, John addressed his love/hate “tumultuous” relationship with his Grammy-winning song from that release, “Your Body is a Wonderland”, during the show in his humorous style. Quipped Mayer, “Representing a time in my life of innocence I will never get back again, because you have to be very innocent to write a song called “Your Body is a Wonderland”. If you are a Mayer fan, you know that often deadpan humor that John is really good at. He doesn’t do a lot of talking during the show, but when he does it is worth paying attention to. But I am getting ahead of myself a bit here. The show started late due to L.A. traffic and it is up to the artist whether to give time or start. Mayer having lived off and on in L.A. for years knows too well the infamous traffic scene and gave time to fans to arrive. The show was two sets with a short intermission.
Opening with “Belief” from “Continuum”, the 2007 Grammy-winning “Best Pop Vocal Album”. Moving to his most recent 2017 release of “The Search for Everything” with the up tempo “Love on the Weekend”. Next came the first sing along of the evening with 2009’s “Who Says” with the great line “Who says I can’t be free from all of the things I used to be, rewrite my history, who says I can’t be free”. Mayer’s songwriting has been good from the beginning, even if a bit naïve, in many ways he is an old soul in his words, which is why he attracts such a diverse audience.
“In the Blood” is John’s examination of family and self. It was his first song that was released to country radio with its twangy acoustic feel. Then came the Gen X anthem “Waiting on the World to Change”, which the audience was clearly waiting for as soon as the first notes were played. Waving their arms in the air, the song is as relevant now as it was when on the charts for over a year in 2007! “Covered in Rain” was a surprise that is rarely played. A song about post-9/11, it is a coveted song by diehard Mayer fans. It was a “musical moment” in this first part of the show. His brand-new release of “Carry Me Away” which has only been played in the last few shows of the tour sounded great live. 2012’s “Born and Raised” track “Queen of California” was on the first night’s setlist only. Setlists are mixed from night to night, maybe John learned to do this from Bob Weir and Company?
To conclude Set One, John gave a nod to his Dead friends and performed a rousing cover version of the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain” with great graphics and lights to go with it! Most of the younger crowd didn’t realize they were experiencing Grateful Dead music and maybe haven’t been to a Dead & Company show yet, but some might figure it out later! There was a brief break between sets.
Set Two opened with John solo on acoustic lamenting on a failed love affair and the city of Los Angeles with “In Your Atmosphere” (“I would die if I saw you, die if I didn’t see you there, I don’t think I’m gonna go to L.A. anymore.”) “Your Body is a Wonderland” and a tribute to Tom Petty’s vision of California with “Free Fallin”, which has been a regular cover on John’s setlists over the years, were both big audience sing-alongs. One of John’s most emotionally charged songs “Edge of Desire” from Battle Studies was another rare gem played live with some great guitar work. A lucky break for L.A. night one diehards.
Another tune from “Continuum” is “Stop this Train”, John’s story about the train of life. It is one of John’s best works, both lyrically and musically it has it all. Mayer has written some great songs and not to harp on “Continuum” but it was just a red-hot time for his songwriting. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” is one of the best descriptions in lyrics about a relationship going bad and then throw in Mayer’s incredible guitar solo, it makes for a great live performance! Guitarist and vocalist David Ryan Harris intros with a beautiful version of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” which just adds to the blockbuster. Recently John had Chris Stapleton as a guest play with him on it in Nashville – check that out on YouTube!
Working toward the end of Set Two came “The Age of Worry”, “Dear Marie” and another early hit “Why Georgia” from “Room for Squares” a beloved song by Mayer fans as it is one of his first. A piano was rolled on to the stage before the encore started and John returned to play “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me” from Wave One of “Search”. Another treat for JM fans! That brings us to that emotional extravaganza of “Gravity”, again another shining star from “Continuum”, it is a song that has many layers lyrically and musically, especially live, Mayer takes the guitar to ethereal places and brings up the backing vocalists, Tiffany Palmer and Carlos Ricketts for solos. The audience completes it with singing and lighting the arena with cell phones!
The band is the best, the great Pino Palladino on bass, Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Aaron Draper on percussion, Aaron Sterling on drums and Jamie Muhoberac on keyboards. Closing the show with the 2018 upbeat tune “New Light”, complete with confetti raining down, Mayer says, “See you tomorrow night!” Listening to fans on the way out who were just blown away by the show. Eric Clapton has said that “Mayer is a master guitarist” and who knows better than Clapton? John Mayer has grown to become one of his generation’s best musicians. Lucky L.A. got two great shows, glad to see one of them!
Top photo credit to Forum. Photos by Vicky Sullivan / The Sarasota Post