John Mayer Scotiabank Arena, Toronto ON, July 30
Published Jul 31, 2019"I like a song that sends some people to the bathroom, and for other people, it's the only reason why they're here," John Mayer said halfway through a 27-song marathon in Toronto. There truly was something for everyone. Eighteen years into his career, Mayer conjures the perfect storm of smash hits, guitar-hero shredding, explorative jams and anecdotes on "metaphysical strife."
Just two weeks after his sixth tour with Dead & Company, Mayer has embarked on a global trek with no particular album to tour. Much like the Grateful Dead members with whom he now shares the stage, Mayer has turned to relentless touring, new music be damned. The magic is finding new ways to play old favourites.
Forgoing an opener and opting for two sets himself, Mayer opened with a solo jam, rolling into the "Belief" riff to a massive ovation as the eight-piece backing band rose to meet him. "Wildfire," off Paradise Valley, came next, launching into a full-on jam.
Mayer weaved through much of his career in the first set, balancing his earliest hits like "Clarity" and "No Such Thing" with recent cuts like "Moving On and Getting Over" and "Love on the Weekend." The band even tweaked the chord progression of "Clarity" to squeeze out a couple bars of Toto's infamous "Africa." Add in fan favourites "Something Like Olivia" and "Waiting on the World to Change" and you'll send most fans home happy — and that was only the first set.
After an intermission, Mayer emerged alone with a 12-string resonator guitar. After a bit of Eric Clapton's "Drifting Blues" he dove into "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967," a deeper cut from 2012's Born and Raised. The acoustic trend continued with arena-sized sing-alongs on "Daughters" and "Free Falling" sandwiching the sparse "Split Screen Sadness."
Even as Mayer handled acoustic duties, the guitar solos didn't stop. Sidemen David Ryan Harris and Isaiah Sharkey both showed off sizeable guitar chops as the band steamed ahead — often powered by the grooving lines of long-time bassist Pino Palladino.
Once the band went electric again, they seemed to gain an unstoppable momentum. The sultry "Rosie" closed with frenzied solos that were then upstaged by a dizzying, face-melting ending of "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room."
At this point the band had hit a furious pace, a redlined engine that seemed ready to explode at any moment. The set never dragged, but there was a sneaking suspicious that any song could be their last. It had to be. The emotional yearning of "If I Ever Get Around to Living" seemed like a reasonable ending. The gorgeous falsetto of "Vultures" felt like a set closer until it gave way to "Still Feel Like Your Man," which was somehow followed by the ceremonious crescendo of "Gravity."
The band sauntered through "Roll It on Home" before finally closing with "New Light." As the music video played on the backdrop, Mayer matched the endearingly cheesy dance moves, every goofy step.
For night one in Toronto, it seems Mayer had a serious breakthrough. No longer acknowledging his existence as a pop superstar or a Berklee guitar nerd or even a newfound jam-band fiend at individual junctions, but embracing them all and allowing them to co-exist within the same moment.