baby faced bluesman educates the ladies...
Last night John Mayer brought his band to the Tweeter Center in Camden, N.J., right outside of Philadelphia. Mayer is known for a couple of contrasting things. On one hand he is the "sensitive balladeer & occasional rocker" that has sold him millions of records and gained him a wide fan base, especially amongst females. Partly in part to his charming songs and partly in due to his "baby-faced" look and "nice guy" persona.
On the other hand, John Mayer is a hell of a guitar player. Already at this young stage in his career he has been recognized as such. From write-ups in guitar oriented magazines to sitting in with some legendary players who see the way Mayer's love of the blues and music with "soul" shines through the poppy overtures that sell him a lot of CDs and downloads.
One of John's most interesting recent sets was the one he did with another emerging legend in the guitar world in the form of Country picker Brad Paisley. Both men handled each other's songs with ease and showed their versatilities and axe-prowess in a host of genres.
So I was interested in seeing how Mayer's guitar playing world would clash with his mostly female pop audience.
But before I had the pleasure of witnessing that, there were a couple of warm up acts to open up.
The 1st one being young British singer / songwriter James Morrison. Mayer himself introduced James and his band, as it was their 1st gig on the Mayer tour. Mayer promised big things in his introduction, including that by the end of their set, the crowd would agree that this was "the best band in the world" or something to that effect.
They weren't. But they were good. Better than the smattering of fans that saw them would suggest. Their 30 minute set consisted of a bunch of songs I really didn't know much of, and frankly, really can't recall speciffically, song for song now. But I do remember them having a really good sound. And i'm sure i'll get the opportunity to hear more of his music down the road.
Next up was a guy I really like. Ben Folds.
Ben and his 2 bandmates came out for their set with little fanfare, but soon had the crowd enthused as they delivered on a set of great harmonies, tight playing and good songs, including a few from his latest release.
The biggest detractor here was the sound, however. I'm not sure what was at fault, but there was severe distortion in the lower registers. Some of it was done on purpose, as Ben's bass player sometimes plays parts on the upper register that resemble more of a guitar part than a bass line. But I suspect that much of it wasn't. The drums, the tom-toms in particular, sounded like fuzzy mud on some fills. Same for the lower piano register. Then at times, everything seemed distorted.
It could have been soundman error. It could have been a bad speaker. It could have been an "EQ" thing, i'm not sure. But it sounded bad and really took away from what was a fine set by a good songwriter. Another problem I noticed was when Ben went inside the Grand Piano he was playing and ripped out a piano string from under the hood. From there, he proceded to take it over to the front of a stage where whe apparantly was chewing out a tech for some incompetence.
But in great style, after that episode, Ben returned to his piano, and picked up the song from where he left off.
After Ben, It was time for John.
Mayer began his set in dramactic style, busting into a string of his many hits. At first keeping it upbeat, but slowly fading into a slower mode. Mayer's band was tight and the sound, unlike the previous 2 sets, was crisp and clean. The near capacity crowd was on it's feet from the get-go.
Here's where it might be appropriate to describe this crowd, which is unlike any I have been amongst in the many hundreds of concerts I have witnessed.
This was the most female crowd I have EVER seen. There was not one group of males, unattached to a female there. And I looked, and looked hard to find one. Occasionally I would see 2 or 3 guys together, but the multitude of concessions in their hands and brisk pace suggested that they were merely fetching some treats for their girl.
There was, on the other hand, TONS of groups of girls, unattached. And unlike the next most female audiences I think I have ever seen at a concert, they were much better looking than the Barry Mannilow crowd my wife dragged me into years ago, or the "hippie chick" Grateful Dead crowds I dragged her to and much less lesbian than the Melissa Ethridge audience. Although ya did see a lil possible "experientin" goin on...but make no mistake, i'm not complaining.
Which brings me to a point that might be more important than the concert review itself. Some advice....guys...who are single....who are looking to meet a girl....GO TO A JOHN MAYER CONCERT PRONTO!!!
Go early. Dress nice. Whatever you bring to tailgate with, bring extra to share. This crowd consists of 3 groups. Couples and families, that made up about 1/2 the audience. That means the other 1/2 is made up of single girls. The Tweeter Center had some 20,000 people there. That means were talking about 10,000 or so girls all in one place! And age groups...well, let's just say that if you are between the ages of say 17 and a 30 something, there will be girls in your age bracket. Best success rates would probably be for those seeking a college age or 20 something gal. Although there were a fair amount of teenagers and MILFS in the audience.
I challenge anyone to show me a better guy to girl ratio anywhere that doesn't involve poles to be swung on, dollars to be placed into g-strings and laps to be danced upon. And unlike those joints, one of these girls might be interested in more than emptying your wallet for a tease.
Then again, maybe not. But in any case, the point is, guys shouldn't be complaining that there is nowhere to meet girls as long as John Mayer is on tour.
Which brings me back to the music. Which, like I mentioned before, was very well done. His band, which seems to be made up of people John would politely call his "elders," can play. And as the set progressed, and they went into deeper, bluesier extended instrumental pieces, the crowd stayed with Mayer and his band. And that is where Mayer and Company were able to show off some of their skills individually and as a band. They also served as a rock solid foundation for Mayer's soloing and stage dramatics that wowed the gals all night long.
It was pretty amazing to see this audience so moved and riveted by a much bluesier and deeper set than his records would suggest. Though most the hits did get played, Mayer was able to keep their attention through jams and a cover of the blues classic "Crossroads." And that's probably goes back to the "babyfaced" part of the John Mayer experience. And Mayer certainly knows who his audience is and plays to it with his non-threatening demeanor and "cutesey" stage dramactics and poses.
But soon those dramactics and poses would subtlely drift into deeper music and the crowd took the journey with him. I have the felling if it would have been some old-timer playing these riffs or someone not quite as "cute" as Mayer, this crowd wouldn't exist.
But it did, and Mayer did everything he could to mix his pop self with his more serious musical side. And he achieved a great balance. He obviously knows his audience and how to please them. But he does it in a way where he can be the musician he is. And he is a good one...a really good one.
To analogize, I would equate it to one of those "chick flicks" that is also a really good movie a guy could go to. Like last years "the Break-Up" with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston.
About the only flaw in the set was the closing number "Crying." Not that the song doesn't deserve to be in the set, it does. But it isn't "a closer" in my view. Mayer would have been much better off doing a more upbeat number as the closer and put this soulful ballad somewhere else in the set, or as an encore.
But hey, what do I know? I didn't just fill the Tweeter Center and every other major Arena in the country to or near capacity.