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What you need to know for 01/16/2018

Music review: Mayer shows guitar prowess, loses audience at times (with photo gallery)

Music review: Mayer shows guitar prowess, loses audience at times (with photo gallery)

Singer/songwriter John Mayer put his guitar-playing skills on display before a packed crowd at SPAC
Music review: Mayer shows guitar prowess, loses audience at times (with photo gallery)
John Mayer performs at SPAC in Saratoga Springs Sunday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

John Mayer can make them scream. He’s got superstar presence, is quite confident on his guitar, and has enough mega-hits to keep any audience of young women happy. He moved from acoustic to electric through his show Sunday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, made an effort at being personable, but often seemed detached, particularly during the electric portions.

Mayer is a strong one-man show. He has a full band behind him, but all eyes and ears are on him, his face larger than life on the large screens around SPAC. He puts his players in the spotlight through the show, but really everyone is just waiting for the light to come back on Mayer.

Early on, he played songs like “Why Georgia” and “Clarity,” showing his guitar prowess and energy. No one can say he doesn’t work hard, his white bandanna not able to keep the sweat from his face.

“If I had one day to be unfamous,” he told a packed SPAC audience of 18,000, he’d want two things. “One of them I can’t tell you. The other one is to just hang out on the lawn” with his audience before the show, drink too much, then nap in the back of a Jetta. While he elicited screams with everything he said, he often seemed to mock his young audience.

Songs like “Perfectly Lonely,” and “Waiting for the World to Change” were easy winners, both similarly bouncy and with smooth guitar solos that stayed inside the song nicely. He then roared into a wild version of Hendrix’ “Voodoo Chile” which left the people around me scratching their heads. He turned his back and went off here, losing some of his audience but gaining others. He followed with a kooky story that included heroine, cigarettes and sex, before moving into “Gravity.”

“Gravity” is a quality ballad that can stay in your head long after the show. It demonstrates the fine line he walks between playing his love songs and stretching on his guitar.

Other songs included a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” an easy and unexciting crowd-pleaser, and an engaged “Who Says,” where he chatted through the verses and warned boys to protect their girls from him, a common theme through his talks Sunday night.

The show came to a rousing finish with “Half of My Heart” — blended with a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing" — and “Edge of Desire,” another tune from his 2009 “Battle Studies” album.

Mayer is natural on stage, has loads of talent, seems to love the spotlight, and Sunday night felt genuine for some of the show.

Rock trio Train opened the show with a one-hour set and its slew of hits. Typically the SPAC audience is barely settled for the opener. But in this case the pavilion was packed and the crowd was at full intensity. Singer Pat Monahan kept them that way, working the crowd through the songs, throwing them shirts, calling them the “greatest crowd ever,” and then bringing nine young ladies on stage for “She’s on Fire,” even stopping to pose for a group Facebook shot. During the new single “If it’s Love,” he asked everyone to hold up their cell phones like a lighter so he could take their picture.

Monahan can sing too, as he showed us during “Look to the Sky” and the final tune “Drops of Jupiter.” His most genuine moment was during the chorus of “Calling All Angels,” where he put his hands above his head and sang repeatedly, “I won’t give up if you don’t give up.”

Train was a smartly matched opener for John Mayer.

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