“Whatever happened to John Mayer?” Is a question many people have asked themselves sitting in the car in traffic as Waiting On The World To Change fades out into another song on the lite FM station, Or as Free Falling begins on a daily mix playlist on Spotify. The question does not prompt as much as a google search as it does a dive into the artist section on whatever streaming service you prefer. And as we dig deeper, we begin to ask more questions. What’s he been up to lately? Has he really released seven records? Have we forgotten about John Mayer? I know I certainly did up until a couple of years ago. But now that the headlines have faded, and pop music has somewhat shifted from the sensitive singer songwriter category of the early 00’s, We find John Mayer not just some surviving artist making money off his hits, but as an incredibly talented guitarist and lyricist who can still pack a stadium full of fans.
That’s exactly what he did in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center this past saturday night. Mayer is touring on the heels of his latest release titled The Search For Everything, a diverse album nearing three years in the making. The album was just a little over a day old by the time Mayer reached St. Paul, but fans already had a good idea of its sound. He released parts of the album in two waves earlier in the year, with four songs in each wave. It allowed fans to focus on the four songs being released, instead of attempting to dissect the whole album in one sitting. It was also in this style that Mayer formatted his concerts. With his huge catalogue of music behind him, Mayer formatted his concert into different chaptered sets to make sure fans were getting as much music as they could, including a solo acoustic set as well as a rare set by the John Mayer Trio, featuring Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino.
While the trio was a huge treat for fans, the rest of the band certainly does not have any talent missing from it. Tiffany Palmer and Carlos Ricketts have been regulars on John Mayer’s tours, teaming up on backup vocals. Covering the keys is Larry Goldings, whose skill has been sought out by everyone from Norah Jones to Beck. David Ryan Harris, who’s worked with Santana and David Matthews, shares rhythm guitar alongside Isaiah Sharkey, whose work with D’angelo was so influential on John that he told the audience he could “outplay us all on stage if he wanted to.” Their shared rhythmic groove on Mayer’s new single Still Feel Like Your Man was something you’d have to hear to believe.
Mayer appeared very relaxed on stage. Highlights from the night include the extended outro to Moving On And Getting Over and the fan requested Covered In Rain which Mayer admitted he “might not remember the lyrics, but it’ll keep me on my toes.” Mayer opened the Trio set with a quick blues jam, and then an Eddie Harris inspired opening to Vultures, before closing out the short set with a gain-soaked Crossroads. Waiting on the Day was about as close as fans would get to Dead and Company, John Mayer’s other band alongside members of the Grateful Dead. Those who were looking forward to a Dead cover may have to wait until Dead & Co’s summer tour. Rosie and Still Feel Like Your Man held their own as new songs, and fit well in the last set of the evening. John closed out the night playing solo on a piano, singing and whistling You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me before disappearing through a door onstage.
So, If John Mayer can still sell out stadiums, have we really forgotten about him? Not really. Mayer’s new philosophy appears to be that he isn’t out to impress anybody like he used to be. John Mayer isn’t pressuring people into liking John Mayer. It’s something he’s now left us to do on our own. The Search For Everything isn’t a record full of apologies, guitar solos and breakup songs of years past. It’s still a John Mayer record, but it’s also a testament to the music Mayer has been influenced by since picking up a guitar and writing, and a culmination of those years of making music. These days, it seems difficult for an artist to craft an album that can not only attract new fans, but retain dedicated ones. The Search For Everything can do both. And that’s exactly the album he wants.