John Mayer has it figured out.
Somewhere along the line of his career, he hit on the perfect formula of writing hooky, mass appeal pop songs while still being able to work out the neck of his Stratocaster to make the dudes in the audience almost pump their fist.
Last night, he and seven other top-of-the-line musicians stood on a pretty basic stage at Freedom Hall and lit up the night with a set replete with loneliness, soul, and the aforementioned guitar histrionics.
Judging from the screams when Mayer first appeared on stage (and a quick glance around the Hall), the audience was predominantly female - and that's the wonder of it. Mayer is nothing short of a modern day guitar hero which, I'm guessing, has less appeal to his fem fans than the drippy sweetness of "Your Body Is A Wonderland", a huge hit for Mayer that he DIDN'T EVEN PLAY! Yet during several extended guitar solos, the gals were on their feet and loving every minute of it while their boyfriends played air guitar and watched in wonder.
Material mostly concentrated on his newest effort Battle Stories. He opened with the current single "Heartbreak Warfare", a topic Mayer knows more than enough about and closing with his cover of "Crossroads", the venerable traditional blues Eric Clapton made famous with Cream. In between, Mayer dropped a few nuggets from the past, and two other crowd-pleasing covers (Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and a chest pounding "Don't Stop Believing, the recently resurrected arena anthem by Journey) but several of his better known "radio hits" didn't appear.
Most notable was the aforementioned "Wonderland", but he also bypassed "Daughters", "Say", "Bigger Than My Body", and "Why Georgia".
At any rate, a show in front of thousands remained semi-intimate due to Mayer's human appeal. He is an honest communicator and wears his heart on his sleeve, as evidenced by his recent interviews. He's as likely to stick his foot in his mouth as he is to point to an audience member and say something poignant and special to that person.
At one point during the show, he pulls out a list of eight "shout outs" from his famed Twitter account, including leading Freedom Hall in a rousing rendition of C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS! To be fair, he did the C-A-R-D-S chant eventually.
And so it is with rock stars in 2010. More accessible and more human than ever before....thanks to Twitter.
Mayer went out of his way to make it a John Mayer song concert rather than the John Mayer show. By concentrating on the material rather than the spotlight, Mayer effortlessly provided a safe, beautiful, and quality show.
And I'm still trying to figure out how he played his guitar while it rested flat on the stage as he crouched over it.