Pepsi Center, Denver CO
If you've been living under a music-less, joyless rock and didn't know, John came out with a new album called Battle Studies. For me, it's the best album of his career. (I can't really include the Trio in that statement, because for me the Trio was a totally different animal than Solo John.) So. John has been on tour for a month now, and after my short time bliss-listening to Battle Studies, it was show time.
I went to the Milwaukee show in early March, and it was fantastic. I posted the photos from that show here. Now, let me tell you, although I'm a photographer, sometimes it really is better to not bring a camera to a show. As John said in his song 3x5, "Today I finally overcame trying to fit the world inside a picture frame." Going to a show and not worrying about what song I might capture on video, or if the picture I take with my iPhone will be good enough to look at later, or what f-stop I need to use for this particular lighting setup... it's amazing. The show goes from something I'm documenting, to something that I am experiencing.
And let me tell you, tonight, it was an experience. John opened with "Heartbreak Warfare", and the feel of the Denver crowd was out of this world. The arena was full of fans who had driven through a blizzard to get to the show, and everyone was hyped. The energy was almost a palpable buzz.
"Crossroads" and "Vultures" satiated our bluesy rock cravings, and then he launched into "No Such Thing", which made my brother look at me with amazement and ask, "What year is this again? This is awesome!" Though it's apparent through his entire show, hearing the older tunes really highlights the vocal strides he has made over the course of his career. If we were to go back and recruit 2001 John Mayer for a show, he wouldn't be able to sing through a set-list from 2010. Or, he could, but it wouldn't even begin to come close.
Then John entertained us all with his best written self-proclaimed, three-minute lie, "Perfectly Lonely," which also happens to have one of the most perfectly constructed bridges in any song he's written. Seriously. Go listen to it again, I'll wait. See? Told ya.
"Perfectly Lonely" segued into "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" which was effectively a musical tranquilizer for me. Such a great song, and it pretty much crept into my bloodstream and had me swaying with no real concept of time until it ended. I couldn't tell you how long the song lasted, but if someone told me it was twenty minutes, I wouldn't doubt them.
Then, the best part of the show: "Assasin". John singing this song with the guitar slung over his back, spotlight dramatically on him... it blows me away every time. Blows my mind. Blows it open and through, over and back, and then I open my eyes, look at him, and it starts over. There's something about it that is sort of dramatic and a little magical. The story of the song is delectable, (I still maintain that it's the best song on the album) and the performance is second to none. Standing on the floor was also pretty badass during this song. I pressed my hand to my chest during the line, "Good to know it's all a game, disappointment has a name," and I could feel the pounding of the music vibrating through my body. It was a profoundly special moment for me.
Have I mentioned the light show? It's phenomenal. Or as my Dad said tonight, "Top notch."
Moving on. John then broke into the acoustic section of the show, and surprised the ever loving hell out of us by playing "Comfortable". God, that one is an oldie but a goodie. And it was a goodie, indeed. I've never heard it performed live at a show before, so I felt it was extremely special. It was special enough, in fact, to merit my brother and I performing our super awesome secret handshake in celebration of the pure awesomeness.
Then, John played "Free Falling", which was his vocal crowning achievement of the night. Damn. Will someone tell me when exactly it was that John Mayer grew a voice like that? Because I don't really remember when it happened. I'm just really happy that it did.
After that, it was "Waiting on the World to Change," "Half of my Heart," "Bigger than my Body" and "Why Georgia". Mixed in there was a kick-ass drum solo by Steve Jordan, John leading the entire arena in singing "Happy Birthday" to one of his backup singers, and a swoon-worthy song intro by David Ryan Harris. (The man has pipes, pitch, skills.)
Tonight John told us, "If you keep coming, I'll keep playing. I promise." Well, just as with his Grammy acceptance speech telling us that he promised to catch up... I do believe he'll make good on that promise.
Because of the snow, I regrettably had to leave before the encore. I'm quite glad to hear that it was "Gravity" and "Who Says"... though I love those two songs... it would have been a far greater tragedy if he broke out a new song, or played some wild awesome unexpected thing.
If it's not clear... if you get the opportunity to see John Mayer live, you should go. Push aside his social media addictions and the interviews and all the other crap. 'Cause when you strip away his Stupid Mouth, the guy is still an incredible musician. Seriously. His music has changed my life, and I'm telling you, it just might change yours too.
PS... I shot a wedding Saturday, and it kicked ass! Click here for those photos. :)