In between Oilers playoff game days, American guitarist and singer-songwriter John Mayer gave the people of Edmonton a breather from the hockey-crazed action at Rogers Place on Easter Monday (April 17). Despite the holiday, the nearly sold out crowd in the new downtown arena was still loud and eager for Mayer's first appearance in Edmonton since 2010.
Los Angeles-based trio LANY warmed up the crowd with sugary '80s-inspired pop, à la the 1975, with enthusiastic response from the audience. Towards the end of their 45-minute set, frontman Paul Klein claimed, "I am the biggest John Mayer fan in the room. I had one poster in my room as a teenager — it was John Mayer."
The crowd roared with excitement when Mayer and his seven-piece band walked out on stage. With his newest and seventh studio album, The Search for Everything, Mayer is hoping to reignite his career after a string of lacklustre albums and inappropriate interviews that led to being known more for his tabloid exposure and famed relationships than his music. None of that seemed to matter to most of the attendees, though, as the majority got up from their seats to dance for the entire set.
The show was divided into five chapters and presented as somewhat of a career overview story, attempting to exhibit the different styles Mayer has recorded and performed under for the last two decades into distinct sections. Chapter 1 ("Full Band") was somewhat of a warm-up, as the band strutted into adult-contemporary territory, working through some of the brand new tunes like "Helpless" and "Moving On and Getting Over."
About four songs in, Mayer paused to say that he thought they were playing too many new songs, but that "it's a fine balance to play in a famous rock band with a classic album," referring to 2006's Continuum. Mayer nonchalantly maintained, "it's bittersweet having a classic — did I just call my own album a classic?" Mayer thinks highly of himself, but he delivered as promised as the band eased into the sensual scorcher "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room."
Slowing things down further, Chapter 2 ("Acoustic") featured a solo Mayer armed with an acoustic guitar, prompting the biggest sing-alongs of the night with the early 2000s soft-rock radio hit "Daughters" and a delicate, and slightly corny, rendition of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin.'"
Following a short video giving a nod to Mayer's original foray into blues rock n' roll, the John Mayer Trio, also featuring bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan, took to the stage for Chapter 3 ("Trio") to give the most thrilling performances of the night. Starting with a ripping version of "Everyday I Have the Blues," the trio showed off their pure, raw talent on their respective instruments, with plenty of time devoted to Mayer's endless shredding and general mastery of the guitar.
Following an extended intro into "Vultures" and their Jimi Hendrix Experience cover, "Bold as Love," the trio expanded back into the full band for Chapter 4 ("Full Band (Reprise)"). Mayer continued his hot streak with more Continuum cuts: "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" and "Belief", followed by one of his early singles, "Why Georgia?" from 2001 debut album, Room For Squares. Though some of Mayer's prolonged noodling got a little bit tedious at times, the final act before the encore melded together fairly nicely, as the band's tight performance ended on a high note with fan-favourite "Gravity" and Mayer's wailing guitar.
Chapter 5 ("Epilogue") was brief, with a sombre Mayer sitting at a white piano playing the final track from The Search for Everything, "You're Gonna Live Forever in Me," to cap off the two-hour set.
Though Mayer comes off as self-indulgent at times, there's no denying that he's a fantastic, multi-faceted guitarist capable of writing in any genre — it's the reason why he joined with the Grateful Dead members to form Dead & Company last year — and his concert aimed to highlight his technical prowess and versatility over the years. Ultimately, his latest live show offers no definitive conclusions, but instead shows the ups and downs of Mayer's varied career, piecing it together into a rough but cohesive story.