September 12, 2010 | 8:35am
With Owl City
Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach
Saturday, September 11, 2010
View a slideshow from the concert here.
John Mayer is a confusing artist. He's an amazing singer, a blues lead-guitar virtuoso, and an engaging performer. For a guy with so many obvious talents, it's bizarre that his set Saturday night at Cruzan Amphitheatre seemed so flat. Seriously -- he's a gifted man, and as much as he confuses, he also seems confused. In our concert preview
for this show, we addressed his claim that he may "take ten minutes each
show for the rest of this tour and just play shit I love." It is
unclear if this happened -- and if it did -- did he hate the other hour
and 55 minutes?
Opening act Owl City sounded like Dashboard Confessional produced
by the Postal Service. Almost half of the crowd got up from the lawn to
sing along to "Fireflies." It was all right, but the shirtless dudes,
mothers, and their daughters had had enough.
Under a starless sky, the stage went black, and the sound of 10,000 John Mayer fans shrieking pierced the night. He hit the stage shredding, playing some intense electric blues licks. His band was hitting every note, beat, and accent perfectly. Together, they're the type of group that would keep your neighborhood dive bar drinking and partying all night. But an arena show with a really good bar band doesn't make for an amazing experience.
Mayer addressed the masses like David Lee Roth circa "I'm Just a Gigolo" era. "This is the second song on my set list," he said without a breath between any of the words, giving the impression he wanted to get what he had to play out of the way.
Later, he made us promise we wouldn't get mad at him. When the audience agreed, he informed us he'd promised Cleveland he'd wear a Cavs jersey next time he played "near Miami." Without really keeping or really breaking his promise, he donned a half-a-Heat jersey sewn together with half-a-Cavs jersey (see a photo of the stitched-together results here
). Weak. He compromised with himself. It was becoming obvious that there would be no ten minutes of shit he loves. He played tons of songs the crowd did love, though.
While covering Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child," he looked like John Cougar Mellencamp channeling Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was well-played, and the extended guitar solo drenched in feedback was impressive. But he's played that cover for years; he still hadn't broken any personal new ground. Among other interesting cover choices; Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden," with full-on Jagger strut, and "Homeward Bound" by Paul Simon. He did seem to be having more fun when he was covering his heroes. Was he hiding beneath the covers?
He also seemed to be having the most fun when he was joking with the crowd. "I used to get really wasted and contemplate time travel," he deadpanned before "Your Body Is a Wonderland." Everyone sang along, and a few people joyously skipped across the lawn. I think I even witnessed the first kiss between a juiced-up shirtless drunk teen and his blond girlfriend.
The night went on, and even though the crowd was enjoying the show, the highlights were not the music. Mayer's personality and charm was immensely more engaging than his material. At one point, he addressed his penchant for one-night stands. The man does know what to say to impress the ladies and hang with the dudes -- he's just incapable of being whoever he really is when it's time to be honest. It would be easier to love him and his music -- instead of just liking it -- if he starts loving it.
Better than: Dave Matthews Band, but only by a little.
Personal bias: I've never been into Mayer's music, but I've always liked him in interviews and on TV.
There was a lady holding large unladylike sign that read: I LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANAL BEADS AND BUTT PLUGS.
Chest Fever > Vultures
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay > Why Georgia
Machine Gun > Voodoo Child
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Beast of Burden > Perfectly Lonely
Covered in Rain
Stop This Train > (Homeward Bound cover)
Your Body Is a Wonderland
Good Love Is on the Way/Heartbreak Warfare
Waiting on the World to Change
Do You Know Me
Half of My Heart
Edge of Desire