Sunday, July 14, 2013
Concert review: John Mayer sports talent, not image, at Dallas show
Extended jams were the calling card of the night.
FAIR PARK John Mayer wore a dangling blue bandana almost like a mullet. It gave him a bohemian casual style that matched his baggy blue jeans and baby blue shirt. That's about as fashionable as he got during his two-hours-plus concert Saturday night at a sold-out Gexa Energy Pavilion. Mayer isn't about the image; he's all about the talent.
He was surrounded by a seven-piece band of stellar players and a couple of background vocalists, while video backdrops of open prairies and nightfall at the canyon adorned the otherwise simple stage setup. The show commenced with a performance from special guest and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, who enthralled the crowd with songs from his 2012 debut album The World From the Side of the Moon.
Mayer, however, was obviously taking more than a few cues from his 2012 album Born and Raised, which took him into Southern California folk-rock expanses. In fact, pretty early in the show we got renditions of "Queen of California," "Something About Olivia," and "Love Is a Verb," all melodic cuts from Born and Raised.
But there's more mining to do. Mayer has a new album, Paradise Valley, coming August 20 that sounds as if it picks up where Born and Raised left off. He did "Wildfire," a track from Valley, that played like a country-blues cousin to anything from Born and Raised.
All of these songs are, naturally, guitar showcases for Mayer. While he's a decent singer and a good songwriter, he's an excellent guitarist. Mayer's tone on the six-string is organic, smooth. It's as if Carlos Santana moved to a house on a hill framed by lush, unfettered greenery. Of course enjoying Mayer's nimble work on acoustic and electric guitars -- he strapped on a different one for just about every song -- means we marvel at his facial expressions. When he plays he looks to be in ecstasy or pain, tranquil or hostile. He feels every pluck, that's for sure.
Plus, he's in no hurry with his songs. Extended jams were the calling card of the night. "Neon," which harks all the way back to his 2001 debut Room for Squares, was done acoustically, just Mayer onstage with one guitar. But he turned it into a mini stringed concert. Much the same can be said for electric numbers "Speak for Me" and "Edge of Desire," the latter of which is from 2009's Battle Studies.
During one of his chats with the crowd he talked about his history of performing in Dallas. The first time I saw Mayer in concert was at the long defunct Bronco Bowl. He'd already scored a pop hit with "No Such Thing" but was certainly still a developing artist. He was all about the talent and not the image then, too.
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