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February 21, 2010

Concert review: John Mayer at Verizon Center last night

john mayerMidnight Sun correspondent Patrick Gavin was at John Mayer's show in Washington last night. Here is his concert review:

Given the grief the candid-to-a-fault John Mayer's recent Playboy interview earned him, you might say the tune "My Stupid Mouth" is the most unironic song in hindsight this side of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab."

Googling the lyrics, one might call Mayer prescient, if not for the fact the now famous 32-year-old rocker seems to making the same mistakes – only now in public – that he made when he wrote the song 10 years ago.

But his warranted or unwarranted public perception as a cad/douchebag (his words) aside, musically, mistakes aren't something Mayer makes very often. ...

Sure, Mayer isn't without his share of misfires. When he hit the stage at 9:30 p.m. last night for a near two-hour set at the estrogen-soaked Verizon Center in D.C., almost right out of the chute the audience was subjected to a near techno version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" (not nearly as interesting as it sounds on paper), an error compounded when you consider the vanilla cover also appears on Mayer's latest, "Battle Studies."

Occasionally, Mayer even playfully fessed up to a few minute miscues, such as a flat vocal to close out an otherwise welcome cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" and a "shaky acoustic set" (a slightly out-of-tune guitar during a medley of "Room For Squares" hits, including "Your Body is a Wonderland," "Neon" and the aforementioned "My Stupid Mouth").

But it's not hard to forgive Mayer for his mistakes (just ask his all-star lineup of former celeb gal pals including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Minka Kelly, Jennifer Aniston and, batting clean-up, Jessica Simpson). His winning attitude and banter with the crowd in which he hypothesizes about what sorts of fans occupy which seats or muses over the prospect of commissioning the construction of a heliboat (helicopter + boat) are utterly disarming.

And since Mayer hardly showcases his sick-nasty guitar chops on his pop albums, witnessing him in concert lay his instrument on the stage floor and go to work on it, as he did in Saturday evening’s finale, is impressive to say the least.

Aside from a few deep cuts which brought the camera phones out, Mayer hardly relented with strong "Battle Studies" tracks like "Heartbreak Warfare," "Perfectly Lonely," "Who Says," and perhaps the most radio- and concert-friendly "Assassins" (think "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" -- the song).

It’s easy to see Mayer is in his element on stage. And why wouldn’t he be? If his lyrics, onstage chitchat and blunt magazine interviews tell us anything, it's that he just wants to be liked. With a swooning crowd screaming like he’s Hendrix reincarnated, he's much more than liked. He’s adored.

Here is the set list:

1)   Heartbreak Warfare
2)   Crossroads
3)   No Such Thing
4)   Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
5)   Perfectly Lonely
6)   Medley: 3X5,  Comfortable, My Stupid Mouth, Body is a Wonderland, Neon
7)   Waiting on the World to Change
8)   Belief
9)   Assassins
10) Half of My Heart --> Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams"
11) Bigger than My Body
12) Why Georgia


13) Who Says
14) Gravity --> Martin Sexton's "Glory Bound"

(Photo courtesy of

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Concert reviews


I sat in Section 409. The highlight of the evening was the drum solo. The whole performance from cover to Mayers performance was mostly loud base thumping that drowned out the lyrics. It appeared that although seemingly confident on stage Mayer appeared nervous when making several irritating to say the least remarks about the seating arrangements of those in attendance. The most irritating of remarks was that having tickets with his name on it should in someway make one's sh>>>y (explicit) day better." As if to say because of purchasing the tickets to his concert we must have all had crappy days. Therefore coming to his concert is like receiving a pardon on our day. No thanks...JOHN. I don't need you for that!

It seems that fame once again has prevailed in the "wonderland" he lives in.

Sorry to hear that your night was suboptimal KS. Mine, on the other hand was one I will never forget. I felt John was a great host who was having fun, not just getting up there and playing for yet another crowd night after night. He was attentive enough to see I had brought him a flower and even spent the time to come and receive it, play his guitar with it and put it on an amp. He could have easily ignored me and my small token of "love". The music and choice of songs were amazing and his sense of humor only added to his show. That's why we love John. He's not about the light show and the dancers. He's about jamming out, chilling out, and just having a good time.

People have got to stop connecting music with musican. John Mayer is a asshole; he knows it, I know it, everyone pretty much agrees on it. That however, does not mean his music isn't worthy of appreciation. I wouldn't be caught dead at a Lady Gaga concert, regardless of how nice she is, her music blows.

So stop trying to be as witty as him and bring him down with every little thing he does; enjoy the damn music. You sound more pretenious than he does.

I was in the 400 section too. I have probably been to 100 concerts at least over my life and this was one of the worst. Either the acoustics in level 400 are terrible (I've never sat there before) or the band's sound people did not know what they were doing. We walked out after the 3rd song. My friend said what would I rather be doing & I said sitting in front of my TV watching Olympics. It was among the worst $200 I ever spent.

John's music is good... He made a mistake or two, three or four in his articles, but his music is amazing and I will not allow anyone to bash his talents as a musician or person. No one is perfect and he's still adorable as hell...Yes, I said it... I've already forgiven him, comment and all and I'm a mixed woman with a little bit of everything in me. His comments in Rolling Stone and in the Playboy article did not upset or phase me. The comment in Playboy was only a metaphor (maybe a bad choice of words) and it seems that everyone missed the part where John said that: "HE WAS GOING TO START DATING SEPARATELY FROM HIS P*NIS"... That's means something to me... Why did everyone miss that??? John is John... John has a good heart as well and I know this first hand, even through the ups and downs. That's why he's so special and unique... John
: if you're reading this... Know that everything will be alright. You're still in my heart and you're an exceptional musician... I heart you. Hold your head high my love and do your thing. See you in NY and you're forgiven by me... See you in March and next week in NY Babe!!! IL09

You'd think a music writer would do his research.

Crossroads is by Robert Johnson, not Cream. It was covered by Cream, but JM doesn't even do it in the style of Cream, so that's just plain wrong.

And honestly, I don't see what Minka, Jennifer and Jessica have to do with a concert. Unless they were booty shaking off-stage.


Good point on the Johnson/Cream reference. As editor, I should have caught that the first time around. Fixed!

I sat in section 418. I have been to three other John Mayer concerts, at West Point, and the PNC Center in NJ. This was by far the best performance I have seen. Unfortunately, it was also the worst acoustics I have ever experienced. I thought that they forgot to connect the upper speaker sets to the voice mics. Just awful bass and no lyrics.

This writer and The Baltimore Sun again show disdain for the people of the District of Columbia, particularly African Americans and women by failing to mention the protest outside the Verizon Center against John Mayer's racist and sexist comments. Shame. Shame. Shame.

Robert Vinson Brannum

Ummmmm and by protest you mean one person driving around screaming over a loudspeaker strapped to the car that "John Mayer is a Racist"?

Why mention that? What does that have to do with the concert...he's apologized for his remarks move on

I was in the 100s to the left of the stage and the base was a little heavy but in general I'm not a fan of going to see a concert in indoor sports stadiums as they are just not conducive for acoustics...bring on summer and outdoor music!

This was my first JM show and I was pleasantly surprised. I had a great time. I thought his commentary throughout the show was light-hearted and somehow adorable. It really is hard to take your eyes off the man.

: if you're reading this... Know that everything will be alright. You're still in my heart and you're an exceptional musician... I heart you. Hold your head high my love and do your thing. See you in NY and you're forgiven by me... See you in March and next week in NY Babe!!! IL09"

Sam Sessa, if you are reading this, thank you for bringing us this blog. It's entries like this that really help me get through my days. I heart you.


I am reading this. I heart you too. Let's get married.

Love, John

Dear JTK,

I am reading this. I heart you too.

Sam Sessa

Never really understood the draw. I don't know anything about dude's personal life but the songs of his they play on the radio are dull as hell. I've heard he can actually play well but man...his pop tunes are just meh...that annoying whisper singing and predictable melody.

This was my husbands and my third John Mayer concert. 1st at the Hollywood Bowl, 2nd at the Verizon in OC, CA. This was definitely the worst, we were very disappointed. We felt his playing was sub par, his choice of songs was weak, and geared towards the tweens that love his pop tunes. His "melody" of some older songs left me feeling jipped; just as I was getting into one of these songs, he moved onto another. He seemed lazy, and like he didn't care if he impressed us or not. What we have loved about seeing him live is his AMAZING guitar playing, but he didn't let that shine through here. He just seemed cocky (big surprise,) and a bit off his game and I agree with "KS" that his comments that buying a JM ticket would make your s*itty day better irked me. Pardon me? You think my day was s*itty and YOU'RE fixing it by playing for me? Whatever. I will always be a fan, but sadly I think this was our last JM concert.

I agree his concert appealed to the masses and acoustics were subpar but what should we expect at an indoor stadium concert. JM was authentic, and his lyrical music continues to amaze me with his ability to poignantly express how we all feel from time to time, the themes are timeless, I know I have had 'red wine and ambien and talked s... again' and definitely know about the edge of desire.

I think theoretically you can separate music and musician. Practically, though, your ticket purchase was a vote for both. That $200 cannot be differentiated between his albums and his interviews, just like your taxes can't be allocated towards defense or education. You voted, with your pocketbooks and wallets, to hear more of his music, and more of his controversial views. As long as John Mayer or his promoters aren't feeling a financial pinch, he's not going to think twice about how to interview more diplomatically.

I wasn't at this concert but I have sat at a few shows in the 400's at Verizon Center. It is, quite possibly, the WORST place to enjoy a concert. The acoustics are god awful and it really ruins your entire concert experience. If you cannot get a seat in the mezzanine, club or lower level don't bother going.

I've been to my fair share of Mayer concerts and I have to say this was his best. I was on the floor so maybe I had better acoustics than those in the 400s. His guitar solo at the end blew me away. Racist or not, this guy's got talent and no one can deny that. I'm gonna agree with UNCONDITIONAL - he may have said the wrong words but he definitely didn't mean them maliciously. If he did, don't you think he'd use a different outlet than Playboy? Give him a break.

It sounds like this show overall was pretty solid. I was not in attendance, but I have seen John Mayer four times, from his early days with pop to his later days with the blues. I definitely can see him chit chatting quite a bit because that's what he has always done, even in his early years. I'm glad that John Mayer is playing older songs in his set though, because those are the songs who made him and he always puts an interesting twist. When I saw him two summers ago , he barely played any of the old stuff because " he did not want to play that pop shit anymore." I am not a huge fan of him personally, but I do enjoy his music and he always puts on a entertaining show. Now let's hope he doesn't say as much in his interviews. Just play.

Sam, I was in the class that you spoke to last year, and really thought your tips and advice were important and helpful. I'm writing a blog about the music scene and music in Baltimore. You can check it out at

longtimemusic fan - it must have been sitting in level 400, because my acoustics left of stage in level 200 were stellar!!

More about the show: I've seen him live many times and this one was definitely in the top 3. His selection of the opening act really pumped up the audience, and his subsequent setlist was pretty unbelievable. Great mix of the classics and new releases. Might have liked to hear more from continuum, but you can't win them all right?

And in terms of John's personality, since it is the topic of the year: I think we should all just agree to disagree. I can see why some people (mostly those who haven't really had a compelling favor towards him) think he's a complete douchebag. This doesn't build his case for retention of fans, however he has been around and going strong for so many years that he has a solid fan base.

Which brings me to my next point which is that I can also see why long time fans of Mayer, like myself, are also vouching on his behalf. Most lovers of John can probably all agree that his music ACTUALLY does reflect his personality quite well. He isn't trying to kiss ass or say he's perfect in his music or even in real life. Does that mean he gets a, okay many, free passes on self-centered and smartass remarks? no. But the reality of it is that out of his 10 years of being a celebrity pop star, his demeanor and humor hasn't really changed much at all. He was saying this shit years ago, he just has more popularity and money now, hence in the spotlight more often, and his business is all out in the limelight. Does he enjoy the attention? ehh, yes a little too much, I think so, and I think that's where he is at fault...If I had to guess, I would just say he's going through a rough patch in his life. Soon enough he'll work through it and this will all manifest itself in yet another amazing [series of] album(s).

Maybe there is no comment about the protest because it was a concert review, not a protest review. Plus, I was there and didn't see a protest; better off, because I would have just laughed. Please, it's been a few weeks now, find something else to harp on. Thanks.

Sit in section 409 or ANY concert and it will suck. I was 6 rows from the stage on the right and it was awesome.

John Mayer is an acoustic rock artist who can rock a guitar like no other! In 2003 he won his first Grammy Award for "Your Body Is a Wonderland" and since then has continued his success by winning additional Grammys. There is no doubt that he has more success to come as he releases his fifth album Battle Studies.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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