John Mayer has always been more than a little self-conscious. He wears his neuroses on his sleeve, waxes philosophical about his chronic self-doubt, feels obligated to qualify his immaturity at age 21 before playing “Your Body Is A Wonderland” in his 40s. In the past, he has made attempts to quell his impostor syndrome by loading his touring bands with world-class musicians, or hitting the road with the guys from the Grateful Dead, but when his latest tour hit Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, John Mayer was on his own.
“I began my career on stage with only a guitar and a microphone,” Mayer had promised when he announced this outing, his first-ever solo acoustic tour, set to traverse North America for the next month. “A lot has changed since then, but I knew one day I’d feel it in my heart to do an entire run of shows on my own again, just like those early days. It took a couple of decades, but I feel it now.”
Maybe, at long last, that thing he’s feeling is something close to self-actualization. He’s surely done enough to earn it. Whether because or in spite of his constant considerations of others’ perceptions, those two decades have seen Mayer become a veteran star on the world’s stage with a catalog that has embedded itself in people’s lives. On Wednesday, he seemed closer than ever to accepting that fact as he sat alone on stage at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, playing songs from throughout those twenty-plus years—from his 2001 debut, Room For Squares, to his most recent effort, 2021’s Sob Rock, to a new song, “Driftin'”, that has yet to be released—on a slew of different acoustic guitars, in addition to brief dalliances with the piano and his trusty PRS Silver Sky.
Related: John Mayer Performs “Waitin’ On The Day” On ‘Colbert’ Ahead Of Solo Acoustic Show At The Garden [Watch]
“Am I gonna be lonely?” he wondered aloud about the concept of a solo arena tour early in the show. Turns out, he wasn’t: “I’m not lonely ‘cus there’s nobody here,” said, gesturing to the stage before turning to the audience. “I’m among friends cus there’s everyone here. … The Garden is an intimidating place to play. We’re turning it into a living room and hanging out.” And it really did feel that way, whether he was taking creative liberties with the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” on a double-necked acoustic guitar or free-styling an intentionally creepy tune in response to an audience sign that simply read, “Daddy?”
He still showed his penchant for over-thinking about people’s reactions (“When I say that I hope you enjoyed it,” Mayer admitted at one point, “I mean that I’ll spend all night hoping that you enjoyed it”). He still used his anxiety as a reluctant source of charm (“People should take panic breaks like cigarette breaks,” he mused as he introduced “The Age of Worry” from Born and Raised. “You need to go flip out outside? Go flip out outside”).
He still made excuses for “Your Body Is A Wonderland”, too, leading into the Room for Squares ballad by asking the crowd if they ever wrote poetry when they were a kid—and how they would feel if that poetry was still “reverberating in the world” all these years later—but he did so with a self-aware acceptance that has never come easy for him.
John Mayer knows that “Your Body Is A Wonderland” can induce a good cringe, sure, but he also loves that song—as do millions of others (2x Platinum is 2x Platinum), including the thousands that packed the World’s Most Famous Arena to watch him sing it solo on Wednesday, and none of them seem to worry as much as John Mayer about whether or not the song is cool.
“You don’t have to be Born and Raised,” he mused, addressing the song like a red-headed stepchild with a heart of gold. Was that well-adjusted perspective softened slightly when he quickly followed “Wonderland” with “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”, one of his more “well-respected” tunes from Born and Raised? Yeah, maybe. But it still sounded like progress.
At the end of the day, people didn’t come to this show because it was cool. They didn’t come because there was a killer new band lineup to see. They came because it was John Mayer singing his songs. And they like John Mayer. And they like his songs. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Someone should probably tell that to John Mayer. He’s been thinking about it a lot.
Click below for the full setlist and a selection of videos (via Brett’s Concert Videos on YouTube) from Wednesday’s John Mayer solo show at Madison Square Garden. For a list of upcoming John Mayer solo tour dates, head here. For ticketing details, click here.
John Mayer – Room for Squares Promo Video (2002), “Why Georgia” – 3/15/23
John Mayer – “Age of Worry” – 3/15/23
John Mayer – “Driftin'” – 3/15/23
John Mayer – “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” – 3/15/23
John Mayer – “Edge of Desire” – 3/15/23
Setlist: John Mayer | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 3/15/23
Acoustic: Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, Heartbreak Warfare , Queen of California, Shouldn’t Matter But It Does, [2002 Room for Squares Promo Interview], Why Georgia, Neon, Go Easy on Me , Who Says, The Age of Worry, Driftin’, Daddy? , In Your Atmosphere 
Piano: New Light (first verse & chorus) > You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me, Changing 
Acoustic: [2005 Continuum Interview], Stop This Train , Last Train Home, Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey, Your Body Is A Wonderland, Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967 
Double Neck Acoustic: Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead), If I Ever Get Around to Living, Edge of Desire
Encore: All I Want Is to Be With You , Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
 Played on 12-string acoustic
 Partial, request from a sign in the audience
 Creepy song in response to another sign in the audience that read, “Daddy?”
 with “Wherever I Go” outro
 Electric guitar over looped piano
 with “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel snippet
 Resonator guitar
 Electric guitar and harmonica
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