John Mayer on Thursday kicked off a two-night stint at United Center in Chicago, IL, a city to which the singer-songwriter and guitarist feels “molecularly tied.” The Chicago run comes at the tail end of a tour supporting his acclaimed 2021 album, Sob Rock.
Mayer opened the night with the album’s lead track, “Last Train Home”, including a booming drum intro illuminated only by the night’s only flash of a stage-width “Sob Rock” neon sign. The 21-song set continued as a three-part act, beginning with a full-band ensemble, followed by an acoustic set, and then back to the full band.
Mayer played a mix of hits from his 21-year career, including “Gravity”, “New Light”, “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” and “Your Body is a Wonderland”, which he teed up by telling fans “let’s just have a good time… I think we can make a couple believers out of non-believers.” He also appealed to diehard fans with rare live performances of favorites like “In Your Atmosphere”, “Roll It On Home” and the particularly sought-after “Assassin” from 2009’s Battle Studies.
This tour, however, is by no means a greatest hits showcase—this is a Sob Rock tour. Mayer and company played six of the ten tracks on the album including the songwriter’s personal favorite, “Wild Blue”, which he told fans was written while sitting on the floor of his home during quarantine. Other Sob Rock tracks from Thursday’s show included “Shot in the Dark”, “Shouldn’t Matter But It Does” and “I Guess I Just Feel Like”, which featured an extended guitar solo accompanied by soulful background vocals.
Just short of 40 minutes, Sob Rock is a concept album that pays homage to ’80s rock, featuring everything from punchy synths to reverb drums while infusing Mayer’s signature guitar tone and warm vocals. The album’s release was also supported by a marketing campaign saturated with oversized jackets and neon-colors. Everything was intentionally designed to infuse a touch of humor and tone that suggests we shouldn’t take things too seriously.
Musically, however, Mayer took Sob Rock quite seriously—and it’s arguably his most skillfully crafted album to date. The pristine production displays evidence that Mayer had a hand in every aspect of making the album. Whether it was handpicking snare drum tones or playing bass on three tracks, each element of every song was thoughtfully considered and carried equal weight.
Backing Mayer on this tour is an all-star band roster, most of whom helped him record Sob Rock. The band, which has ebbed and flowed as the tour has gone on, includes fellow guitarists David Ryan Harris and Isaiah Sharkey, legendary bass guitarist and fellow member of the John Mayer Trio, Pino Palladino, Aaron Sterling on drums, and former Michael Jackson/Toto keyboardist, Greg Phillinganes.
While Mayer is possibly the greatest guitarist of our generation, that doesn’t mean he’s not willing to share the spotlight on stage. Notable moments from Thursday night included a call-and-response solo performance between Mayer and Phillinganes on the keytar as well as a cover of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” sung by Harris. Mayer even passed the lead guitar baton to Isaiah Sharkey multiple times throughout the night, including during “Your Body is a Wonderland”.
Mayer closed the night with an encore performance of “New Light”. The crowd roared and demanded even more after the lights came back on, suggesting that Mayer did, in fact, make them believers.
John Mayer has only six more dates left on his Sob Rock tour, including one more in Chicago, before he hits the road with Dead & Company again this June. For a list of remaining tour dates and tickets, click here.
Check out a gallery of photos from the Chicago show below via Josh Druding.
Setlist: John Mayer | United Center | Chicago, IL | 4/28/22
Set: Last Train Home, Belief, Who Says, Shot in the Dark, Something Like Olivia, Helpless, I Guess I Just Feel Like, Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)*, Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967*, In Your Atmosphere*, Shouldn’t Matter But It Does*^, Your Body Is a Wonderland, Rosie, Stop This Train%, The Beautiful Ones (Prince)#, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, Wild Blue, Gravity
Encore: Roll It On Home, New Light
^with Forever Young (Bob Dylan) snippet
%with Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel) snippet
#sung by David Ryan Harris