Mayer's hits, covers please all-ages crowd

Concert Review

July 15, 2008|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun reporter

John Mayer isn't hurting for hits.

But even the multiplatinum pop and blues singer/songwriter doesn't have enough singles to fill a whole show. Instead of digging through deep album cuts to round out his Sunday night concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, he strung together a pretty tight set of his own hits and put his stamp on some classic cover songs. The show, which clocked in at about an hour and 15 minutes, was brisk but worthwhile.

A steady, heavy rain drenched outdoor concertgoers as Mayer plucked notes to the first tune, "Vultures."

"How are my rain people?" he asked the lawn crowd before teasing a few licks from Blind Melon's "No Rain."

The three songs that followed, "Waiting on the World to Change," "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" and the laid-back "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," were from his latest studio album, Continuum. Mayer almost crossed into easy-listening territory with that record, but he really punched the grooves live.

Near the end of "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," Mayer sang a few bars of Aerosmith's "What It Takes" - a tease lost on the kids in the crowd, but appreciated by the parents there. Mayer has some serious cross-generational appeal; tweens, teens, 20-somethings, 30-somethings and baby boomers all mingled at Merriweather that night.

For his first full cover of the night, Mayer picked the classic blues tune "Crossroads," a Robert Johnson song popularized by Cream in the '60s. A longtime blues buff, Mayer formed a trio and released the live album Try! in late 2005.

"I really didn't reinvent the blues," he said. "All you can do is reinvent the audience. So thank you very much."

Mayer's version of "Crossroads" was mellower than Cream's, but still a little dirty. Aside from being a gifted songwriter, he's also an accomplished guitarist, and cut loose some particularly wicked licks over the course of the evening. He followed "Crossroads" with a slow blues rendition of Duffy's pop hit "Mercy." That might sound odd on paper, but he pulled it off in person.

"Thank you guys for being the crowd that lets me get away with that," he said.

Mayer can only get away with it because he was a pop musician first, and to please the fans, he played his early hits like "Bigger Than My Body," "Why Georgia," "No Such Thing," and last year's single "Say." The only noticeable absences were his songs "Daughters," and "Your Body is a Wonderland," which both won Grammys.

But Mayer still had a few covers to dish out. The crowd ate up his acoustic version of Tom Petty's hit "Free Falling"- a couple even held up lighters.

During the encore, Mayer said he'd always wanted to play in a band where he could take his shirt off. It was already a sleeveless T-shirt which exposed his toned and tattooed arms, but apparently that wasn't good enough. So a few seconds later, he ripped it off and tore into an awesomely bad version of Van Halen's "Panama."

Mayer ended the encore with the slow, bluesy "Gravity," also from Continuum. It was a wistful way to wind down a fun, wet night.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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