John Mayer doled out a handful of his mainstream hits for his San Antonio fans Thursday night at the AT&T Center, but his setlist really showcased a more intimate portrayal of the artist and highlighted his new album and tour namesake, The Search For Everything.
Boston-based artists, The Night Game, opened the night with lead singer, and Boys Like Girls frontman, Martin Johnson, dramatically arched his gum in the air and heading full force into their performance. Discovered on Spotify by Mayer, they were asked to join this tour and perform their debut single, “The Outfield” along with about a half a dozen more for the crowd.
Concertgoers received an impressive compendium of all John Mayer offers as a musician – not just his pop chart toppers but more complex, heavily blues-influenced jam sessions. The 2+ hour set was broken into 5 chapters, each featuring a variation of either the full band, solo, or trio lineup. The visual focal point was the band and the music itself – a simple colored LED screen framed the stage behind them, periodically changing colors and backdrops with the vibe of the set. Some creative camera overlays were used as well to showcase the overwhelming talent backing Mayer, as well as the dimpled crooner himself, much to the delight of the significant female presence in the audience.
Chapter one featured the 8-member full band kicking it off full force with two songs off the new album then rousing the crowd with a familiar blast from the Battle Studies past of “Who Says.” He wove a lot of old with the new – something he later graciously thanked the crowd for being accepting of – and something that likely furthered appreciation for his mature compounded talent by the fans only familiar with his mainstream hits. He still delivered the fan favorites in a self-proclaimed “reanimation” of his “young [self]” ending that chapter with the first major crowd sing-a-long of the night: “Why Georgia.”
Already proving he could rip a guitar solo like no one’s business, and that he truly has an appreciation for – and has diligently studied – electric guitar greats of an earlier generation, Mayer toned down the second chapter with some crisp acoustic solo numbers. He lit the fire with “Emoji of a Wave” then ignited the crowd as they collectively sang “Daughters” and “Your Body is a Wonderland,” shouting at the end “That oughta hold ya!” to the adoring audience excited to hear the radio favorites.
The chemistry of the John Mayer Trio is something truly special and worth experiencing live. Chapter three – Trio – brought together John Mayer on vocals & guitar, Pino Palladino on bass, and Steve Jordan on drums in a high energy set. This chapter of the show opened with a short documentary video relaying the organic formation of these guys and how that chemistry and energy and passion for the blues played a pivotal part in Mayer’s musical career. As the audience watched this performance play out on a live video triptych behind the trio, Mayer presented the Texas crowd with a fourth guest between songs. He dubbed him “the hero of your state,” and brought out the legendary Jimmie Vaughan to join them on stage for the final two covers on the set – “Roll Roll Roll” and “Dirty Work at the Crossroads.”
Chapter four brought about a full band reprise playing old and new material while showcasing more of the individual talents of the band members. Isaiah Sharkey had some notable solos alongside Mayer, and David Ryan Harris melted his soulful vocals into the acoustic guitar. The keen ear could even pick up some subtle nuances of Grateful Dead-esque guitar stemming from Mayer’s stint with Dead and Company. A sea of phone-screen flashlights brought on the encore of “Edge of Desire” and “Gravity” where if you could vocalize the act of fainting, the moment that smooth guitar began the song the audience let out a collective one.
The final chapter was the epilogue, one of poignant simplicity, and was just John Mayer sitting at a white piano surrounded by a white screen. He played a solo of “You’re Gonna Live Forever” then exited through a hidden door in the screen, which then faded into the album art and a concise ‘The End’
The entire show was a thoughtfully compiled story, a swell of creativity throughout the physical chapters of the set and metaphorical ones of John Mayer’s career. The show almost seemed to fade into a simple moment of peace. One of acceptance, by both the artist and fan, of the dichotomy of the musician. A contrast of chart versus heart. A harmony that will live on forever.
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Chapter 1: Full Band
MOVING ON GETTING OVER
Chapter 2: Solo
EMOJI OF A WAVE
YOUR BODY IS A WONDERLAND
Chapter 3: Trio
WHO DID YOU THINK I WAS
ROLL ROLL ROLL (with Jimmie Vaughan)
DIRTY WORK AT CROSSROADS (with Jimmie Vaughan)
Chapter 4: Full Band (Reprise)
HALF OF MY HEART
IF I EVER GET AROUND TO LIVING
IN THE BLOOD
EDGE OF DESIRE
Chapter 5: Epilogue
YOU’RE GONNA LIVE FOREVER