Live review: John Mayer's MSG mea culpa
Mon Mar 1 2010
Review by Dan Hyman. Photos by Taso Hountas.
"Mayer challenged the MSG audience to look beyond his verbal misfires, and find reason to believe he is not among the most talented song-spinners in today's pop-rock universe."
Given his public-image free fall, resulting from a recent spew of verbal diarrhea, John Mayer could not have asked for a better platform to rid himself of his self-imposed demons. Posturing before a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd on Friday night—salivating women ("I've lost some respect for him, but he's still hot," said a cougar in the row behind me) and frat-tastic men—Mr. "Your Body Is a Wonderland" was short and to the point, albeit lacking any true sincerity, in his apology. "Thank you from the bottom of my dumb heart for coming tonight," Mayer sighed.
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And the pretty boy should be thankful—that tickets went on sale months ago. However, the Connecticut-born shredder wisely used the divine opportunity to do far more than play the "I'm sorry for being a douche" card. Combining his knack for blues-drenched guitar ("Gravity") with silky vocals and sensuous balladry (Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'"), Mayer challenged the MSG audience to look beyond his verbal misfires, and find reason to believe he is not among the most talented song-spinners in today's pop-rock universe.
For much of the night, Mayer went whammy-bar crazy, playing off the exceptional skill of his handpicked stagemates: a collection of top-notch musicians including Steve Jordan (of the John Mayer Trio) on drums and Robbie Macintosh and David Ryan Harris on guitars. While rom-com schmaltz from A Room for Squares, "No Such Thing" and "Why Georgia," reminded us of the sappy Mayer we have all wanted to sucker punch, jazzy rippers "Good Love Is on the Way" and "Vultures" brought to mind the image of a 32-year-old blues prodigy with the god-given talent Robert Johnson once sold his soul to possess.
Come encore time, Mayer was in full ass-kissing mode. By interlacing Jigga's "Empire State of Mind" chorus ("Now you're in New York") with that of Battle Studies' strummy pop single, "Who Says" ("It's been a long night in New York City"), Mayer puckered up to Manhattan's finest with a shout-out that hit the crowd's collective soft spot. It was a wise decision for him to bring out his inner brownnoser on Friday: New Yorkers don't take kindly to halfhearted apologies.