Recap: John Mayer Wraps Three Nights of the ‘Sob Rock Tour’ in Los Angeles with Heart, Soul and … Jokes


Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

John Mayer is not the same as you remember him.

The singer/songwriter/guitarist may still have the same enviable hairstyle and gentle croon that helped put him on the map in 2001 with his debut record Room for Squares, and that voice may still elicit shrieks of adoration from the crowd, but the version out on the road now on the Sob Rock Tour would completely surprise those who dismissed him years ago.

For years, his name was largely associated with salacious tabloid headlines about his dating life and a few lighter adult contemporary-type radio hits such as “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Daughters” — but this early to mid-career success pushed something important away from view: the man can shred.

Occasionally, Mayer has dabbled in projects and sounds that allow his considerable skills on the guitar to breathe, such as his John Mayer Trio live album and, more recently, joining the Dead & Company ensemble on its Grateful Dead-themed amphitheater tours.

After taking in both Mayer’s Sob Rock Tour launch event at the Hollywood Palladium in February and, now, the third show of a three-night run at the Forum in Inglewood (prefaced with an impressive opening set from singer/songwriter Yebba, who definitely seems primed for a big breakout), I’m here to report that John Mayer is much, much more than you thought he was.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone reading this — it’s more directed toward those who may have assumed most of his music was like the hits, the sentimental, perhaps saccharine ballads primed for emotional reactions and maximum radio play. While key to his massive popularity back then, the way John Mayer™ was presented and marketed in the early portion of his career was probably at the expense of his perception as a musician.

To his credit, he’s done a lot to turn that around in recent years, with an irreverent and especially amusing social media presence and, with his latest album Sob Rock, an appreciation for “yacht rock” vibes, complete with a laid-back, ’80s image aesthetic and khaki pants.

A conversational performer, Mayer took pains to limit his onstage banter at the Forum in order to get more songs in (presumably due to a venue curfew), even joking that he would post his would-be stage banter on Instagram to watch after the show.

For the Sob Rock Tour, which Mayer has been playing for a few weeks now (save for a COVID-19 hiccup on the East Coast), he assembled an absolute dream team of a backing band, bona fide legends and established industry greats:

Lenny Castro (percussion)
Steve Ferrone (drums)
David Ryan Harris (guitar/vocals)
Jamie Muhoberac (keys)
Pino Palladino (bass)
Tiffany Palmer (vocals)
Greg Phillinganes (keys/vocals)
Carlos Ricketts (vocals)
Isaiah Sharkey (guitar)

Despite the relatively fresh arrival of this touring unit, the chemistry on stage at the Forum was impeccable for all of the nearly two-hour performance. Touching on seven songs from Sob Rock, as well as other picks from Mayer’s lengthy collection of albums, everything was pristine and precise.

The set was broken into three chapters. First was a full-band run-through of eight songs, beginning with the glowing Sob Rock album opener “Last Train Home” and featuring Continuum album favorite “Belief,” the aforementioned “Your Body is a Wonderland” (which featured Mayer shouting-out a guy up front for sticking around for the song instead of running to the bathroom, making a joke along the lines of “we’re in this together, bro!”) and “I Guess I Just Feel Like,” which took on a near-hymnal vibe as it progressed thanks to Mayer and the band feeding off each other.

A short acoustic bit in the middle of the show was highlighted by “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967,” from 2012’s Born & Raised, before Mayer played his live favorite “In Your Atmosphere” and concluded with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin.”

The band returned to the stage for the third act, launching into “Still Feel Like Your Man” — which Mayer introduced by asking if we recalled the time before the COVID-19 pandemic, when we could all let loose and be “goofballs.” The song was brought in with an extended introduction emphasizing the rhythm, Mayer encouraging everyone to truly let loose and have a good time.

What was notable about the show Mayer performed, as well as others on this tour thus far, is that he isn’t up there running through every hit. There was no “Bigger Than My Body,” no “Waiting On the World to Change,” no “Daughters,” his early breakthrough “No Such Thing” didn’t get its moment to shine.

This was an assortment of songs Mayer clearly enjoys playing, and the band behind him accentuated songs like the Battle Studies standout “Edge of Desire” and Continuum classic “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” the latter of which was one of the most affecting songs of the night. It’s not a Greatest Hits tour by any means, and that’s to the benefit of the audience as much as it is Mayer himself.

The Sob Rock track “Til the Right One Comes” had an airy vibe that only got better when the band threw in a few minutes of the Paul Simon classic “You Can Call Me Al”:

The main set concluded with “Gravity,” another favorite from his 2004 album Continuum (which had a heavy presence in the set list, as it should), before a one-song encore of “New Light,” his 2018 single that was included on the Sob Rock record.

Toward the end of the main set, Mayer took a few minutes to express his appreciation — and surprise — at being able to play the historic Forum for three nights, as if he wasn’t still one of the biggest solo artists in music.

A bit of self-deprecation came to the surface here, the same that has been part of his lyrical themes for years. It adds to the endearing qualities he has a performer and the slightly edgy personality he has on stage.

“Now, I just chill and make music … and hang with my two-year-old,” he quipped at one point, saying that he was just curious to see if the press noticed that comment. Obviously a callback to his past years as a tabloid favorite, it inspired chuckles throughout the venue.

For nearly two hours, John Mayer — and a backing band of such skill that it was almost worth the ticket price itself —  delighted an audience of faithful fans with some of his best material, a few of his hits and that engaging persona that has helped him endure well past his arrival more than two decades ago.

John Mayer set list, the Forum, March 16, 2022:

Last Train Home
Shot in the Dark
Belief
Wild Blue
Shouldn’t Matter but It Does
Your Body Is a Wonderland
Who Says
I Guess I Just Feel Like

Acoustic

Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
In Your Atmosphere
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)
Still Feel Like Your Man
I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Edge of Desire
Something Like Olivia
The Beautiful Ones (Prince cover) (Snippet)
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Til the Right One Comes (You can Call Me Al Snippet)
Gravity

Encore:

New Light

If you’ve ever been on the fence about seeing him live, get off the fence already and get to a show on the Sob Rock Tour … even if you’ve never liked any of his hits.

You’ll have a great time anyway.

Sob Rock Tour 2022 schedule:

Fri Mar 18 – San Francisco, CA – Chase Center
Sat Mar 19 – San Francisco, CA – Chase Center
Tue Mar 22 – Seattle, WA – Climate Pledge Arena
Wed Mar 23 – Seattle, WA – Climate Pledge Arena
Fri Mar 25 – Salt Lake City, UT – Vivint Arena
Sun Mar 27 – Denver, CO – Ball Arena
Sat Apr 02 – Sunrise, FL – BB&T Center
Tue Apr 05 – Tampa, FL – Amalie Arena
Fri Apr 08 – Atlanta, GA – State Farm Arena
Sat Apr 09 – Atlanta, GA – State Farm Arena
Mon Apr 11 – Charlotte, NC – Spectrum Center
Wed Apr 13 – Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena
Thu Apr 20 – Austin, TX – Moody Center
Wed Apr 21 – Austin, TX – Moody Center
Sat Apr 23 – Houston, TX – Toyota Center
Sun Apr 24 – Dallas, TX – American Airlines Center
Thu Apr 28 – Chicago, IL – United Center
Fri Apr 29 – Chicago, IL – United Center



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