Seven-time Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter John Mayer made his second trip to Atlanta in 2023 on his solo tour. The tour is the first time Mayer’s done a tour without a band. Mayer had previously performed at State Farm Arena in March with Joy Oladokun opening for him. After a successful spring tour, Mayer decided to come back to ATL in the fall, this time with singer-songwriter JP Saxe opening.
I started the night in the highest seats you could get in State Farm arena. The setup of the stage was very minimalist, with a couple of rugs on the floor, two pianos on the left side, a couple guitars on the right, and a mic in the middle. There was also one big LED screen in the middle with two smaller ones on the side. JP Saxe opened the show. He's best known for his song, “If the World Was Ending.” Saxe had released his new album, The Grey Area, a month prior and the visuals on stage were similar to the outfit Saxe wore in the cover: Red, yellow, green, and blue paint melting to make boarders for the LED screen.
To be honest, I didn’t like Saxe’s performance. His style of singing was spoken word verses mixed with a Lewis Capaldi-like belting for choruses. All of his songs were sad and depressing and there wasn’t anything special about them instrumentally. But my main gripe with Saxe’s performance was his piano/guitar playing.
Since it was the John Mayer Solo tour, Saxe played alone. He started off on piano before changing to guitar for a couple of songs and ended back on piano. Saxe needed an accompaniment behind him. He was not able to play and instrument and sing at the same time. While playing piano, he would shake his hands off in the middle of a song because they got tired. When he tried to get back on track for a song, he would either be off beat or play the wrong note. This would happen multiple times per song.
Saxe’s a decent piano player, but he wouldn’t play anything interesting while singing. His guitar playing was worse and sometimes he would barely strum the guitar. One song he sang completely a cappella. The only compliment I can give is he got better when he played his bigger songs at the end, but he wasn’t great. This was my first taste for Saxe, and I was not impressed.
After a brief intermission, Mayer would take the stage and started with “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” on acoustic guitar. Mayer would play the majority of the show on a normal acoustic guitar. The crowd lit up after the first strum of Mayer’s guitar. Even though Mayer had a grand piano on stage, he never touched it. This was because Mayer was sick during this show. After finishing the song, Mayer proclaimed, “Johnny’s got a cold,” and explained that some songs may not sound the same vocally. However, Mayer said that he typically overdelivers whenever he was sick and “to strap in for a great show.”
If Mayer wouldn’t have said he had a cold, I wouldn’t have noticed any difference. He was phenomenal on guitar, weaving songs together by intricate leads. Vocally, he also sounded fantastic and hit most of his high notes. This tour is one where you could go to multiple dates and get completely different shows. Mayer was very fluid with his song choices, often taking sign requests and remembering songs he could play with the key his guitar was currently in.
After the first four songs, a representative for State Farm Arena came all the way up to our section and offered us tickets to a lower bowl section. Because of this, I missed a little of “Neon,” but got a fantastic view of the rest of the concert. The view from the previous seats weren’t great and I couldn’t even see Mayer from the angle we were at. I was only able to see one of the LED screens for the first four songs. So, I was extremely grateful for being able to move seats and actually get a great view of the show.
The Atlanta show was very nostalgic for Mayer. He had cut his teeth in ATL and lived in Duluth as a young artist over 20 years ago. Many of the songs off of his debut album, Room For Squares, came from his time living in Duluth. One of these songs was “3x5,” which Mayer played after explaining the headspace he was while writing it. Mayer also played interviews and promo videos from Continuum and Room For Squares during short breaks for water or a guitar change.
Other than the acoustic guitar, Mayer played two other types of guitars during his set. He played a silver 12-string resonator on “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967.” This song sounded fantastic and was paired with water visuals on the LED screen. Mayer would then switch the resonator for a double-neck acoustic guitar for his final two songs, “If I Ever Get Around to Living” and “Edge of Desire.” Both of these songs were Mayer’s strongest from a guitar standpoint, so it made sense for them to go on last.
If felt like an out of body experience watching these two songs live. Mayer’s voice drew the audience in on “If I Ever Get Around to Living” and his solo was astounding. There were no crazy visuals for this song, just a strong focus on Mayer’s talent. On the final song, Mayer dimmed the lights, and the LED screen went to black and white. The screen showed an extreme closeup on Mayer playing out of his mind while flashing lights shined everywhere around him. I’ve never been the biggest fan of “Edge of Desire,” but after watching the song get played live, I think it’s one of Mayer’s best.
Mayer would play a brief encore of “Comfortable” and “Free Fallin’,” but after that the show was over. If you went to the show expecting songs from every era of Mayer’s career, you got your money’s worth. Mayer played four songs off of Heavier Things and Born and Raised, three songs off of Continuum, Sob Rock, and Room For Squares, two covers, and one song off of Paradise Valley, Battle Studies, Where the Light Is, and the Inside Wants Out EP. The only album that he didn’t play any songs off of was The Search for Everything. I’m a little sad about that since it’s my second favorite album from him, but he did have a song from it on the setlist before he got sick.
Overall, I highly recommend going to see any of the remaining tour dates of the solo tour if you can. Mayer gives a once-in-a-lifetime show and proves how great of a musician he is. Each setlist is different, which means you could get songs that Mayer hasn’t played in years or new songs he’s workshopping. Like this show where Mayer played a cover of “Under Pressure” by Queen for the first time ever live. If you’re looking for amazing guitar playing and great vocals, check out John Mayer’s solo tour.
1. Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
3. Wild Blue
4. I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Room For Squares Interview
6. Who Says
7. Waitin’ on the Day
8. Come Back to Bed
9. Under Pressure
10. Last Train Home
12. In Your Atmosphere
13. Something’s Missing
14. Stop This Train
15. Something Like Olivia / Split Screen Sadness / New Light Medley
16. The Age of Worry
17. Your Body is a Wonderland
18. Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
19. If I Ever Get Around to Living
20. Edge of Desire
22. Free Fallin’