“You get to a certain age where you prepare yourself for happiness. Sometimes you never remember to actually get happy.” This quote from John Mayer always stuck out to me, and it’s something I tend to keep at the forefront of my mind as I go through my days. Enjoying the ride while you’re still on it is something that many of us tend to lose sight of. Experiencing John Mayer perform this past Saturday at UBS Arena, I was able to witness firsthand just how he applies that thinking to the life he’s currently leading.
Along for this ride, JP Saxe took the stage promptly at 8pm. Settling behind a piano, with his name displayed in giant text on the screen behind him and every color of the rainbow painting the stage, he delivered a 7-song set that stretched through a wide range of emotion, including some funny banter about his new relocation to NY and becoming a local. Having been his 4th time in NY opening for John, there wasn’t a moment wasted – each song expressed a sentiment of how to be present and in the moment and allowing yourself to be open to all of life’s experiences, whether good or bad. His slightly raspy vocals and effortless vibrato had me a bit lost in the songs, which seems to fit well with the mood he wove in the room that evening. I definitely made a mental note to catch his solo show here in March 2024.
Moving into John’s set, eager fans with homemade signs lined the barricades hoping for him to take notice. Various song requests and funny puns are a mainstay during crowd banter, and John always happily obliges, adding bits of humor and jokes along the way that keep the show flowing. Seated and shrouded in darkness save for slats of light beams dancing across his form, he began with one of the most loved selections from his 2006 release, Continuum, “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room.”
Other selections including “Waiting On The Day,” “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me,” “In Your Atmosphere,” and even the often ridiculed “Your Body Is A Wonderland” found their way onto the setlist, plus impromptu covers of Grateful Dead’s “Althea,” and Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.” The decision to play the latter wasn’t totally lost on me as that song in particular became a symbol of celebration of how we individually see other people and things that add color and life to our world, and how memories play such a huge part in that celebration.
The majority of the audience in that room with John that evening could conjure up a specific memory that they hold dear, with John’s music as the soundtrack. Continuum undoubtedly carried me through the worst breakup of my life. Video clips from that time, as well as during his Room For Squares era were peppered into the set to earmark where he started and how far he’s come. With a career spanning 20+ years, John has recognized his own growth in various ways as well, as I caught him update the lyric to “I was only good at being young” during “Stop This Train.” In many ways, I can say that we’ve grown up together, and through all this, his thankfulness and appreciation for his steadfast fans in every room he stands onstage shines through. Repeatedly throughout the night, he thanked the audience for allowing him to play what is on his heart for every show during this solo tour and eventually hopes to do a tour run where he plays just the hits. I’m sure he’ll have a difficult time whittling that list down considering the hits he’s racked up.
Eagle-eyed, he managed to see another fan’s sign way in the back of the arena, which shocked everyone. He applauded their guts and dedication for holding onto hope that he would actually see it. The entire crowd erupted. From behind me I heard a man joke, “yeah, he isn’t just a guitar player, he’s got personality!” Other fun moments included him hilariously flubbing the lyrics during “Neon,” playing “Still Feel Like Your Man,” and going right back into a large improvised section because “that riff just feels so good!” Plus, a rendition of “Edge of Desire” on double-necked acoustic that was so damn good it made my chest hurt. Again, the man behind me quipped “man, he’s playing guitar like that, in sweatpants and a t-shirt like he just got out of jail, phew!” If I had to guess, I’m sure John gained a new fan that night.
After 2 hours of music, the evening came to a close with John commenting that “it was slightly off the rails but it was a memorable one.” I agreed with the sentiment and resolved that it’s sort of what I’d expect at a John show, considering everything we’ve seen from him up until this point. Seeing John evolve over the years, not only in voice, which sounded absolutely pristine I might add, but in how he approaches playing music; reverent, but joyful. It certainly excites me to see where he will take his career next. While he may have thought this evening had a few miscues, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Article/Images: Lesley Keller
John Mayer setlist:
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Love on the Weekend
Emoji of a Wave
January 16, 2002: “Room for Squares” Interview
Daughters (fan request)
Who Says (with Bird Song snippet)
Waitin’ on the Day
Althea (partial Grateful Dead cover)
The Age of Worry
In Your Atmosphere (with extended outro)
You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me
I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea)
Stop This Train
Kodachrome (Paul Simon cover/fan request)
Your Body Is a Wonderland
Never on the Day You Leave
Still Feel Like Your Man (fan request)
In the Blood
Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
Double Neck Acoustic:
Perfectly Lonely (fan request)
Edge of Desire
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)