John Mayer | 06.20.07

mayer0607Live, his music doesn't sound as watered down as it does on the radio, and you can tell that, if Mayer had his way, this would be how his audience heard his tracks all the time.  w/ Ben Folds
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, St. Louis


The clock struck 7 pm at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre and the nearly sold-out crowd was anxious, waiting for the festivities to begin; an eclectic bunch, consisting of about three-fourths John Mayer Top 40 radio fans, one-eighth Ben Folds piano rock nerds and one-eighth drunken 20-year-olds looking for their next conquest.

The concert abruptly began, not with the sound of electric guitars or hardcore pianos, but with the distinctive melodies of Jamaican-infused, acoustic rock.  A tall, redheaded 20-something playing the guitar introduced himself as Brett Dennen, the opening act.  His music was reminiscent of old Jack Johnson and, while most of the audience spent this time getting hot dogs or beer, he was interesting and his music was full of spirit.  He was also the only member on the bill to meet and greet fans after his set.

After Dennen played a few tunes, Ben Folds took the stage.  Former front-man of Ben Folds Five, Folds is that guy in your college Calc class who is a complete smart ass, but still knows all the answers.  His set was full of hijinxs, from when he decided to stand on his grand piano and guide the audience in a three-part harmony for his song, "Not the Same," to a performance of his well-known cover of Dr. Dre's  "Bitches Ain't Shit." 

Before Alanis Morisette and "My Humps," there was Ben Folds and "Bitches Ain't Shit."  It is a song chock full of references to bitches, hoes and tricks with lovely strains of piano melody in the background, a song that was sure to catch the attention of the tweeny boppers and their soccer mom chaperones out on the lawn.  Oh, but Ben Folds is a cheeky S.O.B.  He hit this issue head on, by saying towards the end of the song, "All you children sing along."  While Folds was thoroughly entertaining and well received by the teenagers and young adults in the audience, it's safe to assume that none of the kids in the audience will be receiving any Ben Folds albums from their parents for their birthdays any time soon.

Finally, after about a 45-minute stage change, John Mayer took his place onstage.  With three albums under his belt and hit singles like "No Such Thing," "Your Body is a Wonderland" and "Waiting on the World to Change" receiving almost constant radio play, there is no doubt that John Mayer has talent.  His guitar playing has been compared to Eric Clapton and other guitar gods, and live, he proves why he deserves that title. 

Mayer really lets loose live, seducing the audience almost into a trance.  His guitar riffs are longer, his voice has more depth and even his band sounds more talented live.  Live, his music doesn't sound as watered down as it does on the radio, and you can tell that, if Mayer had his way, this would be how his audience heard his tracks all the time. 

Mayer has an air of pretension about him though, rarely opening his eyes while he plays or smiling…at all.  He has a sense of humor though, even if it is one that we only got a mere glimpse of towards the end of his set.  As typical of every artist to play Verzion, Mayer had to make the obligatory shout out to his fans on the lawn.  In reference to the lawn, he said, "It's lawless back there. There are no rules. You can get pregnant by just walking through there," which gave the audience a laugh.  Mayer is still trying to straddle that line between popularity and playing music that he truly wants to play.  One thing he kept stressing throughout the night though was how grateful he was for the opportunities he has been given and how blessed he is to be able to play music every night as his career.  He said, "I hope that I can do this for the rest of my life."  The truth is, if Mayer continues to grow as an artist and gain fans as he has continually for the past six years, he will no doubt accomplish just that.| Katie Herring

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