John Mayer delivers impressive show

A review of John Mayer at the TD Garden on February 24, 2010

, Editor-in-Chief

It’s fair to say that John Mayer hasn’t had the best month. No, he’s not at Tiger Woods’ level but the rocker has found himself in a hotbed of controversy due to his sexual escapades revealed in a recent interview with Playboy. He’s since apologized and claimed all he wants to do is play his guitar. On Wednesday, the former Berklee College of Music student returned to the Hub for a show at the Garden. With the support of a sold out crowd of over 15,000, Mayer was actually humble and made good on his promise.

Alongside his tight and well-traveled six-piece backing band (plus two backup singers), Mayer kicked off the show with the perfect melodic opener “Heartbreak Warfare”. It was the first of just four tunes from his new album Battle Studies as he delivered a well-balanced setlist that touched all points of his catalog. The notion that Mayer wanted to just come and play like he was back in his Berklee dorm room quickly became clear when a stellar rendition of “Good Love Is On The Way” came second in the set and featured Mayer’s first notable solo of the night.

Mayer’s guitar abilities have been well noted yet it still comes as a pleasant surprise for many. For others, including much of the overwhelmingly adoring female crowd, it went unnoticed in favor of the radio hits like “Bigger Than My Body”. However, the fact is that when he was focused on his fretwork, Mayer delivered the night’s best moments. “Vultures” was an early highlight while “Assassin” seemingly fell flat at the start as he tried to play the role of frontman only to be rescued when he finally swung his guitar off his back to jam out at the end with a riveting solo that had him finger-tapping.

The Berklee dropout kept the banter at a minimum and let the music do the talking. When de did speak with the crowd, it was often a humble ‘thank you’ or a memory from his short time in Boston. From dreaming about a career in music while walking along Newbury Street or penning his breakthrough hit “No Such Thing” in a building on Mass. Ave. (room 737 to be exact), which was one of the set’s first sing-alongs. When it came to the “part of the show where I pick up my guitar and decide what I wanna play”, Mayer once again ditched his acoustic guitar and plugged in for an electrifying solo set. Starting with a modest solo, he built his way into “Who Did You Think I Was” before flowing into a bluesy take on “Neon” from 2001’s Room for Squares.

Drummer Steve Jordan, who anchored the show all night, impressed the crowd with a fun solo that gave way to “Waiting on the World to Change” (cleary one of Mayer’s best song in my mind) and “Belief”, both from 2006’s Continuum. The show did begin to derail with a forgettable cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” and an odd take on “Half of My Heart”, which included a bizarre singing tale of shopping at Toys “R” Us and a few lines from Fleetwood Mac’s “Fields”. After sincerely thanking the crowd and his band, Mayer got back on track for the main set closer “Why Georgia”, which included bits of The Police’s “Message In A Bottle”.

Mayer returned for a two-song encore that perfectly summarized his career. First came “Who Says”, the lead single from Battle Studies and the fun singer-songwriter vibe that Mayer was boxed into for years. The ladies loved it and the sing-along was joyous. He followed with “Gravity”, a song that most would not recommend for a show closer. However, Mayer kicked the song up a notch and gave it a great punch by wailing through an epic guitar solo from all ends of the stage to bring the show to a mighty end.

Judging by the crowd’s reaction, Mayer’s recent controversy has not resulted in any fans jumping ship. Let’s face it, the guy has always had an ego and come across as a tool. But when he shuts up and plays his guitar, there are few that can match his skill. On Wednesday, he made a strong statement with a near two-hour show that was centered on his guitar playing abilities but still had a little something for everyone.

Michael Franti & Spearhead got the crowd going early with with their brand of reggae and funk before bringing their 30-minute set to a close with last year’s smash hit “Say Hey (I Love You)”. The crowd joined in for a contagious sang-along and he returned the favor by visiting and taking photos with many new fans on the floor after the band’s set.

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