John Mayer’s Night of St. Louis Love
Kathleen Meyer
7/9/2007 12:14:36 PM

Being the winner of several Grammies including the 2007 Best Pop Vocal Album for Continuum and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Waiting on the World to Change," as well as countless other awards, are just drops in the bucket for John Mayer. The musical star has a voice that can make you melt, guitar skills that will leave you dumbfounded, …not to mention the fact that he is a stud. On this particular steamy Wednesday night in June, the warm breeze occasionally hit the faces of the preteens and college students as they wandered through the lawn of the Verizon Wireless Pavilion. All were posed as utterly devoted fans, patiently waiting for John Mayer.

As lawn blanket beauties sipped on bottled water, singer/songwriter Brett Dennen was on stage, trying to pump up the crowd. Unfortunately, Dennen wasn’t much more than background music as the young audience tried to find spots for their oversized blankets. A sort of Jack Johnson, with a pleasing voice, Dennen’s band felt like entertainment at a beach resort with that same laid-back, relaxing mindset. The tone of his music was upbeat and cheerful and Dennen did his best to get the attention of the distracted crowd spilling into the pavilion, which was, daresay, a feat to be accomplished.

Dennen gave a quick farewell, and before long, the lively and amazing pianist/singer/songwriter Ben Folds took his turn at whipping up the crowd. Unfortunately for Ben, this crowd was too interested in waiting for John Mayer to pay him any attention. Folds, a small, dorky man with glasses at a massive piano, is one of those legends that, excluding a couple radio hits in the 90s (and best-known for the depressing song, “Brick”), has always been under the radar of the mainstream. But his smart-songwriting, immense talent, and great energy has made him a live favorite to regularly sell-out small- to medium-sized venues on his own. Ben Folds exudes talent at the first stoke of a key, and played a solid set backed up by a guitarist and drummer.

Before he began his first song, Folds started rambling by saying words such as “pah pah” and the crowd wondered what in the world he was doing. He claimed John Mayer told him he wanted to be misunderstood. Apparently Folds thought Mayer should do this literally by speaking in gibberish? After his quirky comments, he started the night with “Gone” to spice things up, and then moved on to some of his catchy songs including “Trusted,” “Bastard,” and “You to Thank.” The select few who were singing along to Folds also enjoyed his upbeat “Kate.” Couples of girls and guys could be heard singing and they danced to the beat.

After his warm up, it was time for him to attempt to involve his audience in some piano rock by creating what he liked to call a “three part harmony.” He tried to teach his pupils how to sing a harmony by splitting them up into low, middle, and high voices. The song was “Not the Same,” and people did their best to sing along, but it seemed as if they were only humoring the singer because of the lack of strong support. He tried to find encouragement saying, “don’t underestimate people’s intelligence” then stood on top of his piano to direct the masses. The song can be beautiful given a chance, but few cared to participate. However, the progress made was not in vain, and Folds still stood strong with his loyal fans. Folds moved on to play his single “Landed” and then he decided to mix things up a bit. He said lyrics often go over people’s heads so he rewrote the music and used Dr. Dre’s words to his song. The crowd cheered as he started to play “Bitches Ain’t Shit.”

Overall, Ben Folds put on a superb show, even though it was clearly the wrong crowd. His piano skills were a treat to hear, especially when he could play with speed and switch over to synthesizer or even a maraca. He closed with the long-titled “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces,” “Narcolepsy,” with a beautiful piano intro, and finally a cover of “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service, which had a swift tempo.

Waiting for John Mayer was almost pleasant; sitting under a clear night sky and watching the thousands of Blackberry neon blue keychain lights flash in the dark gathering of fans. The crowd lounged on their blankets and some on each other’s shoulders, awaiting their rock/pop hero. Suddenly, one blue spotlight hit the darkened stage and big screen televisions pictured John Mayer’s hands attacking his custom guitar, which sported the word continuum, the title of his latest 2006 album. Next came three more slender spotlights along with an impressive display of bright yellow and purple stage lights. The crowd wondered “Where’s John?” Finally, the messy-haired, black V-neck tee, and jeans appeared and we saw John Mayer’s glistening face.

He opened with a personified electric guitar playing “Clarity.” Mayer also called to attention the fact that he fell in love with the St. Louis audience throughout the night. He made his first comment on this by gazing into the swarm of people saying, “This is perfect.” Then he switched from his electric guitar to an electric acoustic to play “Waiting on the World to Change.” He politely asked the crowd, “Ready to sing along?” and the saxophone and trumpet blended together to make a jazz shake. At the end of the tune, Mayer reiterated how much he loved his fans by saying, “Listen to you!”

Next, Mayer told his fans that he made a lot of dumb choices earlier in his life and career. He sang “No Such Thing” about times in high school and claimed he “wrote this song when I was doin’ stupid shit.” Now Mayer seems to be in a much better spot as a musician and has moved on to songs that have more depth for him such as “In Repair,” which is about “time traveling skeletons,” among other things. During this number there was some audience dancing as well as Mayer’s “slow jams” or as he said “what the kids on the street are calling it.” This meant he played a solo on the guitar in a slow, rhythmical way. He continued to talk about how his life is different now, saying he is “not the man I used to be.” Mayer noted again that he had a very “sexy crowd” and continued to play his jams singing a cover of Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” He had a fabulous ending with another guitar solo and anyone who wasn’t familiar with his music would have thought he was at a jazz concert.

John Mayer floated along in his show and performed another sing along with “Why Georgia.” This included shots of the crowd singing were plastered on the big screens. He seemed to be very comfortable with stopping the music so his fans could finish the lines, which of course everyone knew by heart. Next Mayer talked about having a day messed up because of bad dreams. He said if you have a bad dream, your day is screwed, therefore he sang the song “Dreaming with a Broken Heart.”
As the concert was winding down, Mayer said his thank you’s and told the crowd it was his bassist, David LaBruyere’s birthday. His audience showed great adoration and prompted him to say he wanted to spend everyday like this. Mayer sang “Bigger Than My Body” and “Vultures” till it was time for him to leave the stage. His fans, however, would not let him leave without another farewell. They cheered and screamed until their beloved John came back to greet them. For his encore he performed “3x5” where he sat down with the trio and played his guitar. He also did a little whistling solo. Finally came the grand finale, “Gravity.” This single off his Continuum album definitely showed off the newer sound Mayer was hinting at earlier. The deep blue stage lights and the slow tempo created a chill, peaceful, and relaxing atmosphere for his jazzy sound to drift into the night. He also gave a guitar solo that could leave anyone speechless. “Gravity” was a perfect end to a night of stylish talent.


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