A dragonfly is a symbol of transformation and adaptability. Befitting that hordes of these winged creatures surrounded Jones Beach Theater on Wednesday evening at a concert headlined by John Mayer—a musician who constantly reinvents his sound. With a catalog that includes pop, rock, folk, country, blues and soul music, the singer embraced all of it at this unforgettable live show.
To start, folk rock group Dawes, composed of brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, Wylie Gelber and Lee Pardini, played a set of sweet, insightful and nostalgia-filled music, ending with a sentiment everyone in the audience could get behind: “May all your favorite bands stay together.”
Then, opening credits introduced Mayer and company—Steve Jordan (drums), Pino Palladino (bass), Larry Goldings (keyboards), David Ryan Harris (guitar), Tiffany Palmer (vocals), Carlos Ricketts (vocals) and Isaiah Sharkey (guitar). The show was broken down into chapters, beginning with Chapter 1: Full Band.
“New York, it is good to see you,” said Mayer. “This is as much a home base to me as anyplace. I saw my first concert here when I was 16.”
From the first moment on stage, it was apparent Mayer is just having a good time jamming with his friends.
Chapter 1 included four songs from 2017 album The Search For Everything and one from 2012’s Born and Raised, with an intro teaser of The Grateful Dead’s “China Cat Sunflower.” Mayer began touring with Dead & Company in 2015. Including a mainstream pop star on the roster of the legendary jam band seemed like a strange choice at first, but the venture has been a success and Mayer remains committed to Dead & Co., while also continuing his solo career.
“I’d actually like to thank this gentleman in the headband,” said Mayer, referring to a fan in the audience who had been at every Dead & Company show. “I have looked to you at times I wasn’t really sure what was going to come next.” Mayer thanked the man for giving him confidence every time he raised his fist in the air emphatically.
Chapter 2: Acoustic began with a combo of “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” and “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967.” Mayer stated that it meant a lot to him to have his first and only niece nearby on the side of the stage while he played “Daughters.”
At the first recognizable notes of “Free Fallin’,” “plays it better than the original” was uttered by one in the crowd. Listeners can decide for themselves if they prefer Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever track or Mayer’s beautiful rendition of it.
Mayer is one of his generation’s most accomplished guitarists. Eric Clapton has called him a “master” and he has collaborated with legends B.B. King and Buddy Guy. If he was showing off his skills and dedication during the acoustic segment, he really flaunted his talents during Chapter 3: Trio.
“Every time I pick up the guitar and play music with Steve and Pino, I come face to face with the music I’ve loved as a kid and the spirit I’ve loved since I was a kid,” Mayer said in the introductory video.
The blues rock trio rocked the stadium harder than everything previous with “Good Love Is On The Way” and turned up the volume for The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Wait Until Tomorrow,” while the video backdrop highlighted Mayer’s manic electric guitar work. Next they put a trio spin on “Vultures,” from 2006’s acclaimed Continuum.
The second verse of “Why Georgia” burst the theater wide open with the energy of a closing number. Unable to get away with not playing “No Such Thing,” Mayer’s first big hit, he slipped a verse into the middle of “Why Georgia,” which was the third single off his debut album Room For Squares. “Your Body Is a Wonderland” didn’t make it onto the set list.
Mayer stopped the show several times to sincerely thank the audience for their support.
“Thank you for making these songs feel like they just came to life yesterday. Thank you for making my music feel like useable music,” he said. “Use my music. The stories that you have about what it means to you just gives me more appreciation for these little homes we hang out in every night like tonight, in perfect weather.”
He also thanked all of the members of his band individually for making live performances like this one so exhilarating. “Nothing feels better than what we have,” said Mayer. “I’ve devoted everything to it.”
Mayer slowed things down considerably with an encore of “Stop This Train,” which the audience loved singing along to, and “Gravity,” featuring the angelic voices of his backup singers and one final incredible guitar solo.
In another change of pace, Mayer came back to the stage for a surprise Part 5: Epilogue. He closed the show with “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me,” alone at the piano. The emotional ballad ended the night on a bittersweet note.