From his earliest days traveling the indie underground through global superstardom, John Mayer has relentlessly followed his creative muse, even if it meant throwing fans for a loop every now and again. Along the way, he’s conquered both the singer/songwriter scene and the pop charts, expanded into bluesy territory with the John Mayer Trio, dove head over heels into folk, and most recently, was named front man for The Grateful Dead offshoot act Dead & Company.
A cover of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” (by the way of Cream with Eric Clapton) also gave the mostly twenty-something audience an instant education in vintage blues and it was devoured with equal fervor as the more commercially-minded material.
Given that extensive body of work, Mayer was spot on with his decision to divide “The Search For Everything” World Tour stop at a sold out United Center into five musical segments with distinctive personalities. Along with a five-piece electric band and two background vocalists, he began with the laid back but still entrancing “Moving On And Getting Over,” “Helpless” and “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You),” all filled with astounding fret work.
After getting through some grooves, the troubadour simply unplugged for a spontaneous acoustic set featuring everything from Beyoncé’s “XO” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” to his own “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey” and “Daughters.” This section of the evening was also accompanied by transfixing, often times gorgeous multi-dimensional visuals on the massive video wall, which could very well have been considered his trusty co-star.
For part three, the John Mayer Trio (also comprised of standard band members Pino Palladino on bass and Steve Jordan on drums) really poured some gasoline on the fire, lighting up the arena with “Who Did You Think I Was” and “Vultures.” A cover of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” (by the way of Cream with Eric Clapton) also gave the mostly twenty-something audience an instant education in vintage blues and it was devoured with equal fervor as the more commercially-minded material.
The entire band returned for the sole shout-out to Mayer’s massive “Room For Squares” album via “Why Georgia,” which found longtime listeners losing their minds as it came to extemporaneous life. Additional smashes “Waiting On The World To Change” and “Gravity” also made major waves, especially when the latter seamlessly intermingled with a bit of Otis Redding’s ageless “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember.”
Come the epilogue, Mayer returned alone sitting behind a white piano as he gently delivered the new ballad “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me,” complete with breathtaking swirls of graphics running up the wall down to the base of the stage. It was yet another unexpected way to wrap two hours of never knowing what would come next, but always tied together by a musician who can tackle practically anything with authenticity.
John Mayer performs with Dead & Company at Wrigley Field on Jun. 30 and Jul. 1, plus “The Search For Everything” World Tour at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre on Sept. 2. For additional details, visit LiveNation.com and JohnMayer.com.
Click here for more John Mayer photos from the United Center.
Upcoming concert highlights at the United Center include Neil Diamond (May 28); Red Hot Chili Peppers (Jun. 30 and Jul. 1); Queen + Adam Lambert (July 13); Roger Waters (Jul. 22 and 23); J. Cole (Jul. 24-25); Bruno Mars (Aug. 16, 17 and 19); Lionel Richie with Mariah Carey (Aug. 26) and Andrea Bocelli (Dec. 6). For additional details, visit UnitedCenter.com, LiveNation.com and Ticketmaster.com.