On the eve of the release of his new album, Paradise Valley, it was clear John Mayer was heading in a new direction. He no longer donned that wide-brimmed hat but instead embraced a headscarf. Questionable headwear choice maybe, but his fashion never outshines his music and besides a few thank you’s and a brief explanation of his new song “Dear Marie,” it was his music that was the main attraction.
Mayer headed to the Ed Sullivan Theater Monday night (Aug. 19) for a 70-minute Live on Letterman performance of material old and new. As he walked onto the famous stage in his blue jeans and peace-signed blue jacket, fans were greeted by the familiar chords of “Queen of California,” the opening track to his last release, 2012’s Born and Raised.
While he played several tracks off the new album, several songs from Born and Raised, Continuum fan favorite “Slow Dancing In a Burning Room” also appeared in the set. Having to cancel his 2012 Born and Raised Tour after being put on mandatory vocal rest due to granulomas in his throat, this was the first time many in attendance heard the songs live. Tracks like the bluesy “Something Like Olivia” showed off Mayer as a guitar virtuoso while “The Age of Worry,” also off Born and Raised, showcased the more country-leaning side of the singer with pedal steel and mandolin features.
Photo Gallery: John Mayer Live On Letterman
Mayer’s cover of the classic “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” merged his love of blues and country into one. Accompanied by soulful keyboards, rollicking pedal steel and impressive electric guitar, the track was just a hint at what was to come. New track “Wildfire” transported the audience into the Deep South with plenty of foot-stomping and hand-clapped rhythms. As the crowd clapped along, Mayer and his band impressed with finger-picked guitar parts. Later, Mayer strapped on his harmonica for “Born and Raised,” which continued the country feel with light organ and wavering guitar.
After a water break that Mayer apologized for being away “a week and a half of Internet time,” he confessed that next track, “Dear Marie” was partly inspired by the Internet.
“It’s weird to have a technology reference in a song. Everyone goes looking online for their first love . . . to see what they look like now,” he said. “We still look back and that’s what this song is about.”
Having been off the road for so long, Mayer announced that the band will play “On the Way Home” for the first time in front of a live audience. “This is a little less guitar. I hope you don’t mind,” he confessed.
And they didn’t. As he closed the set, Mayer waved, “Thank you guys so much for coming out this evening and supporting me. If you made it this far you’re a true fan.”