John Mayer By The Beach – PNC Bank Arts Center, NJ (19th August, 2017)

John Mayer’s approach to his 2017 summer tour is to present his music as a story in 5 acts. Title cards introduced each part of the show at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. This particular stop on Saturday, August 19th began with opening act Dawes and a brief comedy set by the singer’s friend and Comedy Central staple, Jeff Ross. Mayer returned to his solo roots this year, touring by himself for the first time since the 2013-2014 Paradise Valley Tour. The artist lined up dates for The Search for Everything Tour around gigs with Dead and Company, playing arenas in the spring and outdoor venues this summer. Mayer has been playing guitar as part of Dead and Company since 2016.

The first part of the evening introduced new songs from Mayer’s April release, ‘The Search for Everything’ in a full band set. Like the chapters of the tour, the album was released in waves leading up to the full album becoming available. The show opened with ‘Moving On and Getting Over’ and ‘Helpless,’ both tinged in 70’s rock influences.  Mayer’s expert mastery of his Fender Stratocaster took ‘Helpless’ into an interlude that included the well-known guitar solo from The Rolling Stones’ ‘Miss You’. In between the two, Mayer led the band in the album’s first single, ‘Love on the Weekend,’ a lighter take on long distance relationships. Mayer is the first to admit his relationships have led to his material, but promised to keep the stories to a minimum to squeeze in as much music as possible in the two plus hours show. Early in the 21-song set, the band tackled fan favorites like ‘Why Georgia’ and ‘No Such Thing’ from Mayer’s 2001 album, ‘Room for Squares’.

The center of the show included two of Mayer’s opposing personas. The second chapter of the story brought Mayer out for a solo acoustic guitar set. To honor the venue and its proximity to Asbury Park, NJ, Mayer was warmly welcomed by the audience as he sang a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 classic, ‘I’m On Fire’. Mayer told a brief story before introducing his 2003 Grammy-winning hit, ‘Your Body is a Wonderland.’ He likened old songs to an old girlfriend, saying there are some he outgrew because he felt they represented a different time in his life. He remarked, “I put it away. I’m not that. But now I think, ‘I guess I am that.” The artist brought the story full circle, referencing a time when it was too late to give an old girlfriend another chance because she had married, but that old songs always could get revived. Mayer also celebrated a ‘Room for Squares’ staple, ‘Neon’, which was penned during his early 20’s in the Atlanta area.

The John Mayer Trio reunited for the third part of the show, highlighting Mayer’s 2005 collaboration with drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Pino Palladino. Mayer smiled during some intricate guitar solos that are known in live versions of his music. The trio played songs from their rock blues album, ‘Try!’ The three men wrote and performed Mayer’s well known hits including ‘Vultures’ and ‘Good Love is on the Way.’ They also played their cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 song, ‘Wait Until Tomorrow.’ Both Jordan and Palladino are members of Mayer’s touring band this year.

The full band returned to the stage for other songs from 2013’s ‘Paradise Valley’ and 2006’s ‘Continuum.’ Songs in this set came from several eras of Mayer’s career, including the lighthearted ‘Something Like Olivia’ and the heartbreaking ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.’ This set included Mayer’s newest single, the country-infused ‘In the Blood,’ which explored the effect of Mayer’s parents’ divorce on he and his adult brothers. Mayer created a strong connection with the audience when the band launched into ‘Waiting on the World to Change.’ There was no intro or story, just the immediate recognition as the audience repeated back each verse with fervor, pleading for the same changes Mayer wrote about over a decade ago.

Mayer closed the set with ‘Born and Raised,’ showing off his musicality with a delicate harmonica solo.  For his first encore, the crowd was treated to ‘Gravity’ and after that, chapter 5 flashed on the screen. Mayer and Ross came back to a center stage piano as they reminisced about nights spent closing comedy clubs. Mayer played ‘You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me’ as the screen faded to black.