John Mayer and his band played a sold-out concert at the 3 Arena Dublin to 13,000 adoring fans, who sang along and cheered every song from Mayer’s extensive back catalogue. The band was made up of eight exceptionally talented musicians, including Isaiah Sharkey, Pino Paladino, Aaron Sterling and David Ryan Harris, and singers Tiffany Palmer and Carlos Ricketts. These are seriously fine musicians, who gelled together wondrously and, when given an opportunity to shine, did so with considerable aplomb.
Now emerged from “the lean years,” as he calls them, with the indiscretions and missteps of his earlier, tabloid-filling career recognized and put behind him, Mayer set the scene for the concert with Changing from his latest album, The Search for Everything – “I am not done changing.”
It was the man’s 42nd birthday, duly noted by the crowd which spontaneously burst into “Happy Birthday” after the first song, and then by the band, interrupting the next song and non-plussing Mayer completely. It was a nice moment.
Here’s what we learned:
1. John Mayer is seriously talented guitarist, coaxing that crystal clear, clean, characteristic John Mayer voice and tone from his PRS Silver Sky guitar. As Eric Clapton has said, “he’s a master guitarist,” and his consummate skill was on full display, effortlessly moving around the fretboard, playing jazzy fills, bending notes flawlessly, moving fast, moving slow, on the beat, syncopated – and all the time drawing you in, charging everything with emotion. Mayer alternated the PRS with his Martin acoustic, and demonstrated with the latter in the likes of Neon you scarcely need a band when you can exploit the full potential of the instrument.
2. He wasn’t the only seriously talented guitarist on stage – aside from the wonderful bassist, Pino Paladino, we had the prodigious Isaiah Sharkey and David Ryan Harris. Sharkey was a revelation, at 29 jaw-droppingly good. He and Mayer had one or two good old guitar duels to great effect, Sharkey giving as good as he got, and a few occasions when they harmonized effortlessly in perfect time. It was a great night for guitar aficionados.
3. John Mayer has great back catalogue. Over nearly three hours, he took us on a tour of his previous albums from the last 18 years and you realized afresh how good a songwriter he is. The songs are musically sophisticated, never same-y, usually with jazzy underpinnings, and yet there’s inevitably a great hook or a great melody. The Dublin crowd sang along to nearly everything, but of course the big hits like Neon, Gravity, Slow Dancing and Waiting On the World to Change went down a storm.
4. The man is a seriously good blues musician. We didn’t get too much opportunity to appreciate this last night, but his soloing during Helpless was sophisticated blues playing at its best. No mindless widdling here.
5. Mayer’s rhythm section is much more than a rhythm section. You don’t have to be called Aaron to be a great drummer, but clearly it helps – Aaron Draper and Aaron Sterling gave it all they had and then some, doing more than just underpinning the band. As did the wonderful Pino Paladino – it was only a pity we didn’t get the chance for some solo work from Mr. Paladino during the evening.
6 .Covers are usually a good idea, and we got two. Mayer took the stage after the break on his own and treated the crowd to Springsteen’s Tougher Than the Rest, including a little bit of Springsteen-esque harmonica playing. Then the talented David Ryan Harris tackled Prince’s none-too-straightforward Beautiful One, showing off his exquisite falsetto vocals.
7. Waxing philosophical can be dicey. But I think Mayer just about pulled it off, in his pre-song riff about battling anxiety. He then launched into The Age of Worry from the Born and Raised album, which was complemented by a video backdrop complete with lyrics. “Smile in the age of worry.” Good advice.
I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Something Like Olivia
In the Blood
Waitin’ on the Day
Moving On and Getting Over
Carry Me Away
Edge of Desire
Tougher Than the Rest
In Your Atmosphere
Born and Raised
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
The Age of Worry
Waiting on the World to Change