Atlanta’s adopted son, John Mayer, arrived in his musical birthplace to a small, intimate gathering of his closest and most-trusted friends and family. The close-knit group of almost 19,000 descended upon Lakewood Amphitheatre for a two-hour set that left the whole city speechless. With all that could be said about such an entrancing evening, packing it all into one review would never do it complete justice. With that being said, here are the five things everyone needs to know about John Mayer’s current tour.
It’s no secret that John’s mainstream popularity hit its peak from 2006 to 2008 on the back of Continuum and the subsequent Where the Light Is Tour, but what fans may not know is that Mayer has assembled much of the same team for The Search For Everything and its supporting tour, highlighted by bassist Pino Palladino, keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer/executive producer Steve Jordan, and familiar touring musicians like David Ryan Harris.
For long-time fans, it feels like a family reunion, but newly-minted Mayer lovers (especially those joining us from Shakedown Street) will feel right-at-home too, within effortlessly crafted extended jams that illustrate an intimate familiarity that can only exist amongst the closest of friends. Because of this trusted and well-established core, every stop on this tour is sure to have its own personality and flavor.
The Trio is Back. I repeat, THE TRIO IS BACK.
In case you didn’t catch it the first two times, the John Mayer Trio is back together for this tour, but who knows if they’ll ever do it again? After their hyper-successful live album Try! and their show-stealing set as part of the Where the Light Is DVD/live album/tour, nothing was heard from the trio for eight years until the two non-John Mayer parts of the trio, Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino, joined a slew of talented musicians to craft John’s newest studio venture. Later, it was announced that The Search for Everything Tour would include a, you guessed it, trio set and blues fans everywhere rejoiced. Seeing as it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the immensely-talented John Mayer Trio emerge into the public, I’d suggest catching them while you can before they’re gone again.
John has Learned a Lot from Dead and Company
From soloing to setlist construction (or lack thereof) to his presence on stage, his time as the frontman for the Grateful Dead’s most recent iteration, Dead and Company, has been apparent throughout his most recent trip around the states. As compared to the blues-rock electricity of his solos from the Where the Light Is Tour or the country/bluegrass stylings of his Born and Raised World Tour, John has learned a lot about emotion from Bob Weir and the rest of the Dead. His solos are phrased more creatively and utilize tones and moods that have ramped up his soloing from jaw-dropping to legendary.
His setlists, too, are affected by his recent summer tour, as they are changing drastically from night to night. I was told by a fan who had recently seen Mayer in Columbus, OH that the encore would consist of “Gravity,” “Rosie,” and “Still Feel Like Your Man,” but what we got instead was a two-song jam session, first over “Born and Raised” and next over "Gravity," with a heart-gripping solo that began with the rain in a way that almost seemed scripted.
Family, not Fans
Perhaps the most important thing Mayer has learned from the Grateful Dead is “Family, not fans.” Lifelong fans of John Mayer are familiar with the way that his personality and public persona have transformed over time, but even with all of his turn-around points and reinventions, none have been as impactful as this. Although he began to open up more with his albums Born and Raised and Paradise Valley, it wasn’t until The Search for Everything that he began to open up outside of just his songs. Between broadcasting sound checks on Instagram Live and getting into multi-day debates on Twitter about potential aggression between UPS and FedEx drivers, we’re seeing the most humanized version of John Mayer that’s ever been presented. This carries over into his live sets through hilarious banter and honest statements about “fake last songs.”
Your Eyes Will Never Leave the Stage
Not that you’d ever want them to anyway, but there is not a wasted second in this set. Any song can become a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a flash, and you don’t want to be the one who was in the bathroom when John pulls out one of the best acoustic guitar solos anyone has ever seen. Aside from just the music, the backdrops and set design, in general, are a sight to behold as city skylines, palm-tree paradises, and live-shots of the night’s stars graced three massive screens and worked alongside a stellar light show to create a complete sensory experience. Even the transitions between his sets are part of the production; John and his team went all out to assure that audiences get what they paid for, and then some. Where many performers will put on a half-ass hour and a half, John fills two hours to the brim with nothing but quality.
I could talk about this artist and this tour for ages, but nothing’s going to send the message quite like seeing it for yourself. Do yourself a favor and be at this show. Go alone, go with friends, go with family, go with your dog; just go. The American leg of the tour ends on September 3; you've still got time!
For a full list of tour dates and tickets, click here.
Photos by Sidney Spear for Bullet Music.