It’s evident that John Mayer’s an artistically torn artist with plenty of musical interests. John Mayer’s a guitar-slinging virtuoso with impassioned pop-songwriter sensibilities, that’s delved into folk rock, and blue-eyed soul (I think that covers it all). When Mayer first burst on to the scene in 1999, he was introduced as a pop artist with good songwriting capabilities. But, with each release he’s shown an added layer to his musical DNA – from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix to Neil Young and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Following media mishaps, terribly racist and misogynistic takes, losing his ability to talk and sing, and some publicly bad breakups, Mayer moved to Montana, grew out his hair and started writing folk-rock, country music. Things got a bit strange to say the least. But, with his forthcoming release The Search For Everything, it looks as if Mayer’s created a sound that’s more mature, polished, and puts on full display his writing and guitar playing that a younger Mayer would envy.
On Friday, April 8th, John Mayer brought his tour, The Search For Everything to Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. Dividing the show into Chapters, Mayer opened Chapter One with his full, 8-piece band, to the sound of Mayer’s powerful guitar intro to Helpless. Following Helpless, Mayer transitioned into Love On The Weekend, as the guitars rang throughout the Wells Fargo Center. Chapter One also featured some of Mayer’s older music, as he traded his Strat for a his Martin Acoustic guitar, Mayer began playing Why Georgia – an obvious fan favorite – as the audience, in concert, passionately sang the bridge section with Mayer.
Chapter 2 featured a solo acoustic set from Mayer, featuring songs like fan-favorite Daughters, Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey, which features him playing the harmonica (doesn’t get much more country than this. Also, it’s no surprise that this song’s from his early days in Montana), and a cover of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’.
After Mayer’s acoustic set, he transitioned into – Chapter 3 – John Mayer Trio, the Blues-Rock iteration of Mayer’s career. Having disbanded for a few years, it was good to see the Trio back in action again. Playing covers like Robert Johnson’s classic, Crossroads and Jimi Hendrix’s Wait Till Tomorrow, as well as his original song, Vultures. This was undoubtedly my favorite section of the show – Mayer was shredding, Steve Jordan locked the groove, and Pino tied it all in together on the bass.
Chapter 4, Full Band (Reprise) saw Mayer settle into more music from his impending album, as well as some new takes on old songs, like Waiting on The World to Change – an optimists approach to social change, which transitioned into Bob Marley’s War – a revolutionary’s approach to social change; musically great, but philosophically, a little strange. Chapter 4 also featured an epic guitar tag team between Mayer and lead guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, as they played the breakdown to Still Feel Like Your Man, sneakily infusing guitar licks from Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. Closing out Chapter 4, Mayer played what’s probably his most popular song, Gravity, which doubles a rock ballad of sorts, and slow burning, 6/8 R&B groove. After leaving the stage for what many thought was the end of the show – the large backdrop then showed Chapter 5 (Epilogue) – the encore.
After the band cleared the stage, and the lights were raised, the backdrop turned completely white. With just a piano and a microphone in the middle of the stage, Mayer played, You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me. With the backdrop of a white wall - an outline of a door appeared, as Mayer would walk into, walked looked to be, the abyss.