Home Live For Live Music John Mayer Cements His Legacy With Outstanding Performance At Madison Square Garden

John Mayer Cements His Legacy With Outstanding Performance At Madison Square Garden


For the past seventeen years, John Mayer has been one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Since the release of his debut record, Room For Squares, Mayer has battled with the pressure of achieving acceptance from the masses while also seeking the approval of the music world at large. It’s been a somewhat controversial journey for Mayer that has often rubbed people the wrong way, from a string of tabloid-staple A-list romances to publicly egotistical episodes that include particularly cringe-worthy 2010 interviews in Rolling Stone and Playboy, after which the guitarist began a period of self-imposed “obscurity.”

However, in recent years, Mayer has re-emerged as an artist that seems truly comfortable in his own skin, and his songwriting and blistering guitar playing continue to reflect that. This journey apparently started with his discovery of The Grateful Dead and his subsequent acceptance as a full-time member of Dead & Company, and it has now peaked with his The Search For Everything tour, which stopped at Madison Square Garden last night. The show featured Mayer delivering a mix of material from throughout his career, while also showcasing his different abilities as both a songwriter and a master guitar player. The performance was breathtaking, as Mayer has elevated himself into rare air, the kind only breathed by artists like Eric Clapton, whose influence was surely felt throughout the evening.

The show was broken up into multiple sections, meant to feature Mayer’s versatility as an artist. After a quick band introduction using the stage’s video screen, the caption “Chapter 1: Full Band” flashed on the screen, and Mayer and Co. emerged to roars from the crowd. The show started off with “Moving On and Getting Over” and “Helpless” from his new album, also called The Search For Everything. Mayer then took time to tell the crowd how thrilled he was to be there, and that, after seven records, he and his band were prepared to play anything from his now-massive catalog. As the crowd screamed with excitement (note: he’s still a pop star, and still gets the screaming girl treatment as if he were the second coming of the Beatles), he and his band launched into Continuum track “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” a gorgeous ballad that allowed Mayer to show off his confident vocals and lyrical guitar playing. Drummer Steve Jordan teased the audience with a drum solo that led into Mayer’s mega-hit “Waiting on the World to Change,” which dropped into a bluesy cover of “War” by Bob Marley. The band then finished “Chapter 1” with “Something Like Olivia” from his 2012 record Born And Raised.

As “Chapter 2: Acoustic” popped up on the screen, most of the band left the stage and left Mayer and his two backup singers to perform a few stripped down songs. The stage was quickly transformed into what looked like a Japanese garden, and Mayer dropped into another Born And Raised song: “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1969.” Search For Everything ballad “Emoji of a Wave” followed, after which Mayer took a minute to profusely thank the crowd for being so accepting of his new material. He expressed that he hadn’t felt this good in a long time, and explained that “if this is what getting older feels like, I absolutely love it.” He brought the mini-acoustic set to a close with his beloved cover of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers “Free Fallin’.” Mayer’s voice is back in full swing, after years of issues with his vocal chords, and he sounded and looked like an artist that was simply comfortable on stage. It’s tough to fill a room as large as Madison Square Garden with just an acoustic guitar and your voice, but Mayer accomplished this with ease.

As the acoustic set ended, the lights went out and a short video package started playing on the screen that focused on the well-loved and oft-missed  John Mayer Trio. Trio members Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino play in Mayer’s full band, but now his fans would get an opportunity to see the mythical, improv-heavy blues-rock trio that rocked the world after the Continuum recording sessions took place. The video sent the crowd into a frenzy, and when the lights came back on, the band swiftly started building up their energy, releasing as Mayer dropped the opening notes of “Crossroads,” the blues classic written by Robert Johnson and popularized by Clapton and his blues trio Cream in the 1960s. The band was firing on all cylinders, as Jordan and Palladino held down the tight groove while Mayer added a blistering solo mid-song.

A stunning version of Continuum standout “Vultures” followed, turning the poppy single into an out-of-this-world blues number, with the band locking in for a tasty mid-song jam. The Trio finished up their set with a raucous version of Mayer’s fan-favorite re-imagination of Jimi Hendrix‘s “Bold As Love,” giving him one more opportunity to crush some guitar solos with Palladino and Jordan backing him. This portion of the night was easily the most exciting musical segment of the evening. It wasn’t John Mayer and band, it was clearly three musicians who love playing together doing what they do best, and they left the MSG crowd begging for more.

The video screen then announced “Chapter 4: Full Band (Reprise)”, and a grinning Mayer picked up an acoustic guitar and led his band into a beautiful version of Battle Studies ballad “Who Says,” which then transitioned into melancholy Continuum track “Stop This Train.” Mayer then took a minute to address the crowd, explaining how dumbfounded he was to continue to be gaining fans this many years into his career. He said “this simply doesn’t happen, and I promise to keep being the artist you want me to be for the rest of my life.” In one moment, the once-egotistical young pop artist seemed to transform into a humble and thankful man, and suddenly the theme of The Search For Everything album and tour became abundantly clear: after “doing his time” and making his amends for the tribulations of his youth, regaining his voice and his love for music, Mayer is decidedly grateful to finally be following his own path. Now, he can be an artist that has it all–pop star, rock star, guitar icon. He can be all of these things, and people will love him for it.

With that, Mayer switched to the PRS guitar that he uses in Dead & Company, and he and his band ran through Born and Raised track “Queen of California,” which he then led into a spot-on cover of the Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain.” Mayer showed a true love for the material, as he does in Dead & Co., singing the song passionately and then soloing like the true guitar god that he has shown himself to be. It was an awesome moment for many of Mayer’s newer fans, a true nod to the Grateful Dead legacy that he is now a part of.

The band then played the new single from The Search For Everything, “Still Feel Like Your Man,” a song which shows a great mix of Mayer’s pop sensibilities, his recovered falsetto vocals, and his guitar prowess. The main set finished with the lone song from Room for Squares from the evening, a joyous version of “Why Georgia.”

For the encore, Mayer delivered another new song “Love on the Weekend,” before delivering an awesome version his ethereal hit “Gravity.” The crowd sang along with ease at this beloved classic, and the bluesman let the crowd take a verse or two before unleashing one more incredible guitar solo while repeating the song’s “keep me where the light is” refrain.

With the show seemingly over, “Chapter 5: Epilogue” flashed on the screen. The band left the stage, and a solo piano was brought to the center of the stage. Mayer then sat down at the piano and performed The Search For Everything ballad “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me,” giving the grateful artist one more opportunity to perform in front of his adoring fans before the evening was over.

John Mayer proved himself to be an artist for everyone at last night’s show, and fans who have tickets to other shows on this tour should be beyond excited. His guitar playing, singing, and artistry were on full display throughout the evening, and rarely has a performer ever been come off as so grateful and so humbled by his place in the world.

John Mayer Setlist Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, USA 2017, The Search for Everything Tour

John Mayer Band, Moving On And Getting Over [Stephen Hurtes]

John Mayer Band, Slow Dancing In A Burning Room [Stephen Hurtes]

John Mayer, Walt Grace’s Submarine Test [Mandi G]

John Mayer Trio, Crossroads [Stephen Hurtes]

John Mayer Trio, Vultures [looks style]

John Mayer Trio, Bold As Love [errockman]

John Mayer Band, Why Georgia [Mandi G]

John Mayer, In Your Atmosphere/Mercy

John Mayer, Piano [The Millionaire Dude]

[Photo via @stacehiggins]

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