John Mayer certainly doesn’t have to search far for everything. He’s been selling out shows across the country, on a world tour for his most recent album release, “The Search for Everything” a 12 song bluesy/folky/poppy selection of indulgent greatness you’d expect from this generation’s premier guitar player. Fresh off his most recent stint as the lead singer for Dead and Company, Mayer returns true to form with another installment of classic love songs, introspective, soul searching lyrics, and solid jams.
Mayer brought his show to Camden, NJ, at the BB&T Pavilion on August 18th. He set the tone of the show by opening with “Helpless”, a blues-infused cut full of allegory to a not-so-distant part of his life filled with embarrassing and difficult public moments. He followed with an eclectic medley of past bangers, from a mash-up version of two songs from his first album, “Room for Squares”, the classic “No Such Thing” and “Why Georgia”, to the first single off “Everything”, the smooth “Love on the Weekend”.
Few artists that I have encountered are able to speak to me in a way that John Mayer does. It’s as if every release is done during a period of internal struggle in my own life. His quintessential 2006 release, “Continuum”, was rediscovered during a time of great emotional pandemonium and reconciliation in my life. The album reminds me of a time of complete destruction, and in its place, a rebirth of someone new; a reflection of the man I knew I always was. It’s a gathering of 12 songs, or 12 steps, in the reconstruction of life, and Mayer excels at capturing the human condition in every word.
His most breathtaking performance in this show was “In Your Atmosphere”, a cut released on his live double album, “Where the Light Is”. The song, a moving firsthand account of the stages of heartbreak, is as fresh and devastating as the first time you hear it. Hearing the song performed live is an exercise in self-reflection; feelings and emotions of love crises and existential search for the proverbial “everything”. Mayer effortlessly hits every note, both in voice and guitar; as if he’s still actively in recovery of this dearest one he’s lost (“Wherever I go/whatever I do/I wonder where I am in my relationship to you.”). It’s a transcendent moment that blurs the line between artist and consumer; a moment where you can close your eyes and visualize the sweeping hair across her face on a sun drenched L.A. afternoon on the 101 and the infinite sadness of watching her walk away for good. It’s true grief in six minutes. His voice haunts the lovelorn subject (perhaps himself), and reaches into the depths of the soul to invoke the helplessness of post-loss. It’s a perfect record, beginning to end, and the record should be required listening in any context. He rounds out the performance with selected cuts spanning a wide spectrum across his catalog, from his folk heavy album “Paradise Valley”, to his incredible John Mayer Trio, strumming out some of the best blues riffs I’ve heard in recent memory.
He closed his performance with an encore that included “Moving On and Getting Over”, a pop-folk cut from “Everything”, and the definitive and most flawless record of his career, the subdued and melancholy “Gravity”. The performance is a constant reminder of Mayer’s musical genius, and a solid reminder that excess can certainly bring him to his knees again if he’s not careful.
Some things are better heard and not said. The emotions projected through Mayer’s guitar strings are as eloquent as any lyric or poem ever written, perhaps even better than any written word could make it. His performances are not to be missed. As long as Mayer continues on this renewed search, we’ll be there with him, ready for the next piece of everything.