by Amanda Ventura
Say what you need to say about John Mayer. You just don't know the goodness of his music until you've heard him blowing his songs wide open with guitar solos and those special deviations and blends you can only get in-person. It only took the first few bars into last night's opener "Queen of California" to replace the racist penis and playboy jabs that were nagging at my brain's pleasure center. The image of Mayer's face geeking out while looking to his band members during a jam sesh, too, was ephemeral but unforgettable. It's those child-like glimpses that frequently get to you at a show like this.
The Born and Raised Tour is Mayer's first in three years, following vocal surgery, two album releases, and a few well-analyzed run-ins with publicity. Though his best-known songs were dropped a few registers so as to not strain Mayer's voice, it was only really noticeable on "Waiting for the World to Change."
Though Mayer didn't speak much at first, he spent considerable time joking with the crowd, making silly voices, dropping obscure pop culture references, and repeatedly thanking everyone for being there. In his own words -- "Some of you wouldn't be caught dead in something you wore in 2001, but you're still listening to this music."
The same goes for me. This was my first time seeing Mayer, but I've had his live album, Where the Light Is in my car's five-disc changer for nearly six months. So, although I've never experienced the contortions of his cherubic face IRL, I had a good grasp of what a Mayer show was like six years ago.
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Compared to WTLI, the blues breaks were traded up for a few church camp-ish sing-a-longs ("Age of Worry" was paired with a lyric video) and visceral rock solos -- even a few that vibrated the ground, thanks to guitarist Zane Carney.
Mayer's band took a brief break in his set so he could go one-on-one with the crowd, which began appropriately with an "innocent" song he says only he could have written before becoming famous, before he got caught up in what someone would think. Given the difficulty many people have separating his celebrity persona and life choices and relationships put on blast by the 'bloids, some self-consciousness is fair.
And with that he went into "Your Body Is a Wonderland." This was the top crowd-pleaser of the night--which wasn't hard to tell, since much of the audience in the seated section of the pavilion rarely stood.
That doesn't mean the show was boring, if anything Mayer wanted to perpetuate a campfire ambiance with his digital backdrop, often showing Utah-ish red rocks and a star-speckled night sky.
"I hope you heard what you wanted," Mayer said after closing out the softly chugging "Dear Marie," adding he would have loved to play for four hours to make sure everyone got to hear the song they came for...before dropping lightly into "Gravity."
Mayer focused half the set on Born & Raised and Paradise Valley, leaving much to be wanted in terms of the familiar -- especially given the enthusiastic response to songs off Continuum, Battle Studies, and Room for Squares (still his best-selling album.)
The encore was underwhelming, too, with many people slipping out during "On the Way Home," presumably so as to beat the notorious parking lot situation at the venue.
See more photos, the set list, and the Critic's Notebook on page three.
Set List: Queen of California Wildfire Paper Doll Slow Dancing in a Burning Room Waitin' on the Day Who Says Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead cover) Belief Your Body Is a Wonderland Edge of Desire I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea) Something Like Olivia Half of My Heart I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You) Waiting On the World to Change If I Ever Get Around to Living No Such Thing The Age of Worry Dear Marie Gravity
Encore: On the Way Home A Face to Call Home
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Critic's Notebook: Last Night: John Mayer at Ak-Chin Pavilion The Crowd: Prepsters, loyalists, and people with far more involved hair-styling techniques than I. Personal Bias: We've both made mistakes. I always take him back. Overheard: An alternating chorus of: "Down in front!" and "Get up, bitches, this is John Mayer!" Random Notebook Dump: People still record concerts on their phones? Is there finally a phone that doesn't make the video sound like it's being upstaged by a garbage disposal? And: Someone really needs to figure out how to streamline this venue's parking lot.