Why I Want To Grow Old With Mr. Mayer

I distinctly remember the John Mayer show last year in Nashville where it all clicked for me. It was nearing the end of a summer filled with some great concert-going, and we had road-tripped up to the state of orange for the show because it was fast becoming tradition to see him every summer and scheduling had prevented making it to the Atlanta show.

What followed was a fairly typical evening of pop gems, crowd sing-alongs, and screaming twelve-year old girls (who, for whatever reasons, have experienced that mental disconnect where they think that an unattractive male is actually quite attractive simply because they’re on stage with a mic and a guitar.) I recall wondering at what point in his career the screaming banshee fans would move on to something/someone more trendy and radio-friendly and those of us who liked the music would be left in the audience. I prayed for swift justice in this regard.

The setlist had been thankfully light on acoustic guitar numbers. The previous summer’s show in Greenville was so acoustic-heavy that I walked away a little disappointed. Mayer’s nothing special on the acoustic in my opinion, especially when you’ve seen the electric chops and know he isn’t using them. 

And then came the encore. No Comfortable. No Wonderland. No, ma’am. None of that. Mayer’s band whittled down to Labruyere on bass and JJ Johnson on drums and this formidable, though in hindsight lesser, three-piece proceeded to tear through a 25-minute set of… blues. Hendrix. Stevie Ray. Other worldy music coming out of a lanky white kid from Connecticut. Utter disregard for the musical tastes of what amounted to probably 75% of the audience. And it was perfect. When they finished the last tastiness of 15 minutes of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), which ended with Mayer standing over his strat, strumming (and kicking) feedback into the crowd, it hit me… i’m witnessing something happen. A transition is occurring. Surely he must realize it? Surely he has to see that the level of intensity doubled when the pop band walked off the stage? 

With the recent advent of the official John Mayer Trio, that transition is complete. Or, perhaps I should say, is completing. Not to cast disparagement on Mayer’s previous band member choices, but come on… I got to see STEVE JORDAN (I would marry your snare tone) and PINO PALLADINO last night. That may very well have been the single best rhythm section i’ve ever witnessed in a live setting. They’ve been playing together for a handful of weeks and there’s just something special going on. 

Maybe blues isn’t your thing. Maybe you have no love or care for the difference between great guitar tone and out-of-the-box guitar tone. Maybe you don’t realize that Steve Jordan has played with everyone from James Taylor and James Brown to B.B. King and Steely Dan. Or maybe you do know these things. Maybe you take it a step or two further and find yourself in conversations saying, “The Strat tone he’s going for in unique, but it’s still a little thin for my tastes. I think it might be interesting if it was a little wider or had a little more sag in it.” 

Wherever you stand from a musical perspective, I just hope you realize that there is something infinitely interesting going on with this Mayer fellow, who by all industry standards and ways of doing things, is completely sabotaging a perfectly good pop music career by going off the deep end and playing blues. And if sabotaging a career looks like a string of sold out shows with two of the best musicians on planet Earth, then I am with you all the way, Johnny.