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Story and photos by Kate SeesholtzAs soon as John Mayer stepped up to the microphone at the sold out Sommet Center in Nashville, TN, it was evident he had a lot on his mind. Mere hours earlier he had been attacked for racially charged statements he made in a recent Playboy interview. While Mayer was obviously reeling, he used that to provide an honest and breathtaking show.
Opening with his current hit "Heartbreak Warfare," Mayer enraptured his audience. He chose to play classics such as "No Such Thing" and "Bigger Than My Body" early on. Though, John Mayer is not the type of artist to come out and play his songs exactly as they are heard on the radio. He is famous for improvising extended guitar solos and taking vocal freedom on his songs (as he did on "Vultures" and "Waiting on the World to Change"). Mayer is continually ranked as one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, and he proved that time and time again as he played through the two hour set.
While Mayer was notably quiet throughout the first half of the show, he started to open up as he led into "Half of My Heart." He spoke to those in the crowd that had to continually answer the question of if they were seriously dating anyone (a question Mayer constantly fields himself). He said to respond by saying "let me have some sick fun!," but acknowledged that it will end in disaster. Stopping halfway through the song he commented that it was from half a man to a whole woman, then switched into the chorus of "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac- a song from a half a woman to a whole man.
As flames flickered in the background, Mayer set down his guitar for the sensual "Assassins," focusing on his audience at the sides of the stage. John Mayer has the ability to seduce a crowd with just a glance and pout of his lips. While his band left the stage, Mayer grabbed his acoustic guitar for the simple "I'm on Fire." As the song climaxed, you could feel the crowd being drawn into his every word.
Saying Mayer is a passionate musician would be a gross understatement, the man truly feels his music; his lyrics are personal. He doesn't have to pretend to feel the heartbreak he sings of every night. He has felt it first hand. Never was this more evident than as the soft white lights above the stage circled overhead as he launched into an emotional "Gravity."
Mayer paused halfway through "Gravity" to address the comments made about him concerning the Playboy interview that had been released earlier that day. He started by stating that he had had a difficult day. That in his "quest to be clever, and try to slither out of constant persecution, he forgot about the people he loves and love him." He told the rapt audience that he had thought that if he "could just be clever enough he might go another day without being labeled a creep."
Mayer wanted to make it clear that the musicians on his stage do not condone his words and thanked them for standing by him. As his voice cracked with emotion, he went on to tell the crowd that he "quits the media game" and only wants to play his guitar with his band from now on. Mayer was visibly emotional throughout the speech, as were his band members. He concluded by saying, "my name is John Mayer, and I'm gonna figure that out." With teary eyes and a heavy heart, Mayer finished out the song with a wrenching guitar solo, thanking the crowd as he left the stage.
As he and the rest of the band returned for their encore, video footage flickered across a see through net that wrapped around the stage. Playing "Who Says" and "Say," Mayer's words were more real than ever for the hurting singer.
While Mayer's personal image is certainly debatable, his place in music history as one of the most talented artists of recent decades is not. Watching John Mayer on stage, one is no longer focused on all the rumors of his love life, of his misspoken words and missteps. All of that is quickly forgotten as he pours out his heart through song. As its been said, John Mayer does not need to put on a show, he simply is the show.
Openers Michael Franti & Spearhead
Michael Franti & Spearhead
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