What do you get when you mix ten thousand plus music fans and superb lighting and sound systems with American rock musician John Mayer and a breezy, mellow summer evening? A great musical experience and outstanding night to remember is probably the best answer.
Mayer performed an outdoor show Friday at Sleep Country Amphitheater in Washington's Clark County. He opened with hit single "Queen of California" accompanied by a full band - 2 guitars, bass and drums - and, two female backup singers. Mayer's red hot, first-rate blues guitar riffs during the crowd-pleasing ten minute opener were a taste of things to come.
"Paper Doll" from his upcoming "Paradise Valley" album due out August 20 came next, followed by "I Don't Trust Myself (with Loving You)" from Mayer's multi-platinum "Continuum." Let's just get this out of the way right now and give kudos to Sleep Country Amphitheater's sound system, sounding particularly delicious during "I Don't Trust Myself." Mayer threw in a little play-on-words-tongue-in-cheek shtick with the crowd here, asking "Do we trust each other enough?" while encouraging fans to dance or sing along.
Other songs included "Half of My Heart," the as-yet unreleased "Dear
Marie," and the light and tender "Fool to Love You," which he happily
sang at the request of a sign-carrying fan.
Great blues guitar, fantastic lighting
Six years ago Mayer performed at Sleep Country (then called Clark County) Amphitheater on his Continuum tour, and it's clear that between then and now he's become an even more proficient blues guitar virtuoso. The 36 year-old singer-songwriter chose the blues traditional "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad" to showcase the skills of keyboard player Chuck Leavell and his own smart, sizzling guitar solo.
But probably the highlight for the crowd during the first hour of the
show's setlist was a lengthy "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" that
included several slow simmering guitar solos. With the crowd on their
feet, the amazing sound system and a constantly changing
backdrop of visuals depicting stars, constellations and the Northern
Lights, it was a mesmerizing performance indeed.
An audience sing-a-long during "Your Body is a Wonderland" from "Room for Squares," "Something Like Olivia" from "Born and Raised," and a fun, somewhat "countrified" version of "Who Says" with photos of Sedona, Arizona alighting the backdrop, followed. Mayer likes including exceptional visuals and lights during his concerts - he choose a particularly beautiful light show on the Continuum tour that resembled stained glass. On this tour he wowed the audience with a continually changing array of amazing visuals inspired by astronomy and the natural world.
Naturally, "Born and Raised" tracks were highlighted throughout the
night, but overall Mayer's setlist was varied and wide-ranging.
Unfortunately, those coming Friday night expecting to hear "Heart of
Life," "3 X 5" or "Stop this Train" (this reviewer's personal
favorite), were setting themselves up for disappointment. It was
plainly clear some songs just couldn't be included due to health issues
the singer-songwriter has been tested with recently. Mayer has a
"granuloma," a type of inflammation, on his vocal chords.
He's had the granuloma surgically removed once, but it grew back just
after the release of "Born and Raised."
Because of this, Mayer elected to sing quite a bit of the evening's setlist in a lower register. He also discussed the issue readily with the audience when a fan requested "Walt Grace's Submarine Test" from the new release. Mayer responding good-naturedly that as much as he really wanted to grant the request, he'd wait until he could sing it the way he wanted it to be heard.
Making the best of a bad situation = hotter guitar than ever
As unfortunate and challenging as the situation's been, it's evident the man has made the best of things by directing much of his time and energy to expanding and perfecting his already proficient blues guitar techniques. Friday night's concert was generously sprinkled with some stunning blues guitar work and showmanship fans won't soon forget.
Other highlights: A solid and satisfying harmonica jam on "Born and Raised," a fully primed and pumped delivery of "Waiting on the World to Change" and an epic performance of "Age of Worry" from "Born and Raised" - the only track of the evening with lyrics backlit behind the band.
"Age of Worry" gave Mayer an opening for some fun as he applied his brand of psychotherapy to the audience, asking everyone to bring "that one thing" to mind bothering them, and to let it go.
Age of Worry:
After playing for more than two hours, Mayer and band capped things off with "Gravity" and then an encore performance of "A Face to Call Home" from the new release.
All-in-all: a fun, full evening that seemed to leave fans happy and satisfied. Mayer's "Born and Raised" tour continues with upcoming summer dates in California, Ohio, Illinois and New York.
For a taste of what he has up his sleeve for August, the song "Dear Marie" from "Paradise Valley" is online here:
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Cynthia Orlando / follow Cynthia on Twitter https://twitter.com/CynthiaOrlando