John Mayer Rocks The Bowl

Los Angeles, CA; June 9, 2007

by Melanie Love

Who knew that John Mayer would ever have street cred?

Or that lovably nerdy opening act Ben Folds would ever jump up onto his piano in the middle of his set and shake his ass before launching into his hilariously uncharacteristic cover of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit?” Along with a fantastic rendition of Whatever and Ever Amen’s quietly gorgeous “Brick” and Folds pausing before his next song to inform the audience, kindergarten teacher-style, about what a synthesizer is (as well as noting that at a certain decibel, it would make you “shart”), his Elton John-esque jangling piano-pop intro was enjoyable the whole way through, and actually managed to make us all put down our catered dinners (got to love the Hollywood Bowl!) and pay attention.

But back to Mayer, whose latest album, last year’s Continuum, was basically resoundingly gushed over here at the Vault, and for good reason. The best thing is, he’s better live, his smooth blues jams given the chance to linger and unfold. Featuring a seven-man outfit including a saxophonist and two horn-players lent the show an organic, experimental feel, making it more than just a by-the-books recitation of Mayer’s back catalog.

Even material from his earlier days of radio-friendly folk-pop such as his first hit, “No Such Thing” and “Why Georgia” off 2003’ Room for Squares have had new life breathed into them, courtesy of beefed up guitars and Mayer’s matured voice, crisper and more powerful than in his emerging days as a teen idol. Along those lines, I would’ve loved to hear recent set-staple “Your Body Is A Wonderland” if only to hear how the new and improved Mayer manages to strip the saccharine track of its cloyingness. 

John Mayer Bowls 'em over June 9
    (Photo: Kelly A. Swift, Orange Co. Register)

The best stuff on the setlist, though, is without a doubt, his new material: slow-burning “Gravity” is a velvety stunner and “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” delivered in his three-song, acoustic encore, is nothing short of heart-wrenching, while Mayer’s ad-libbing during “I’m Gonna Find Another You” was un-selfconsciously hilarious (he drifted off during the chorus to declare he might just continue to drink and build a time machine instead.) And breaking up a string of Continuum tracks was a gritty cover of “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” complete with extended bluesy solos.

Most refreshing is the fact that even amid his striking success, Mayer has remained sweetly humble; he paused between nearly every track to thank the fans for sticking with him or to express his longstanding love for Los Angeles, deeming it his number one. The feeling is most definitely mutual. Mayer is a class act.

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