Returning to close out his two-night stand at Madison Square Garden in New York City, John Mayer again played to a sold-out arena. The Grammy-winning artist and Dead & Company guitarist chose this show for a very special performance: a full play through his beloved album Continuum.
Mayer kicked off the show with Battle Studies single “Heartbreak Warfare” before sliding “Love On the Weekend” into the same slot as last night. “Changing” followed and galloped its way into an energetic, extended outro.
He welcomed us folks from “the extended universe of the Grateful Dead,” and there did indeed seem to be far more Deadheads in the crowd last night than on Thursday. He cooked up a funky “Moving On and Getting Over” and then moved into “Waiting On the Day,” which saw a standout solo by guitarist Isaiah Sharkey. Mayer gave a nod to his roots with the “song that [his] fans built,” “No Such Thing,” one of his earliest hits from his 2001 debut album Room For Squares.
Sticking with his Martin OMJM acoustic, he took the crowd through the endlessly singable “Who Says” before pivoting to “Rosie,” which ended with a bounding, blues-inflected outro. “Edge of Desire” and “In the Blood” closed out a very solid first set.
In the middle of the set break, Mayer suddenly appeared on the arena’s big screen, streaming live on Instagram from his dressing room. After noting that he hadn’t yet played any songs from 2006’s Continuum, he made a surprise announcement. For the second set, he’d do something that he’s “wanted to do for a few years now”—perform Continuum in its entirety.
At this, the arena nearly exploded with applause, and again when Mayer took the stage for the second set. First up was Grammy-winning Continuum single “Waiting On the World to Change,” featuring an interpolated tease of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.” Mayer again used the outro of “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” as a playground for his guitar chops, but Friday night’s Filthiest Guitar Solo award easily went to the next song, “Belief.”
When Mayer and the band launched into beloved tune “Gravity,” phone flashlights began to pop on around the arena, joined quickly by more and still more until Madison Square Garden was a sea of bobbing lights. The space became so well-lit that the arena lights went down completely as the crowd sang the second verse. It was easily the most intimate and magical moment of the night.
After a blazing guitar solo, Mayer bought back a more mellow energy with “Heart Of Life”, which was followed by “Vultures.” He then paused to address the audience with a heartfelt speech about leaving childhood and growing up, setting the tone for “Stop This Train.” A smooth treatment of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” by rhythm guitarist David Ryan Harris led into “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” Mayer, playing his Fender Stratocaster instead of the Paul Reed Smith Silver Sky from the night before, delivered an emotive guitar solo that nevertheless didn’t quite reach the frenzied heights and raw power of Thursday night’s rendition.
John Mayer – “Heart Of Life”
Mayer and the band finally gave the crowd a song many never thought they’d hear live, Continuum’s cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold As Love.” He mainly stuck to playing the studio solo, missing an opportunity to take the song in a more improvised direction. “It’s been a while since we’ve played that one,” he remarked cheekily after the song.
“Dreaming With a Broken Heart” came next, followed by “In Repair”, which showcased the instrumental layering Mayer’s arrangements can achieve with three guitars and an organ. Finally, “I’m Gonna Find Another You” featured solos from Mayer, Harris, Sharkey, and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac and marked the end of Continuum, and the set. A double encore of “Still Feel Like Your Man” and “New Light” sent the audience dancing home.
John Mayer – “I’m Gonna Find Another You”
How did Mayer’s second night at Madison Square Garden stack up to the first? Given Thursday night’s career-spanning second set and last night’s Continuum performance, Mayer seemed to want the two shows to complement each other. In general, they did. But while both shows were polished and exceedingly well-delivered, he repeated 12 songs from Thursday night’s show out of 25 played last night. While this is in keeping with the number of show-to-show repeats on this tour, and understanding the predetermined plan to play through Continuum (containing 4 of these repeats) for the second set, playing two nights in the same place is always an opportunity to showcase musical depth. Mayer could probably have dug a little deeper in the first set for some songs that New York City hadn’t yet heard.
Even still, his mid-break Continuum announcement reinforces an important point, especially for Deadheads just discovering his music—counting repeats isn’t really a fair metric of judgment here. This is solo artist territory, and with each show Mayer presents a self-portrait of his musical development. He’s certainly not afraid to vary his setlist or play songs live that didn’t perform well commercially, but certain live staples of his are necessary touchpoints on different eras of his career. Now, with new Mayer fans streaming in via Dead & Company, perhaps he sees these staple tunes as necessary strokes of the brush in his musical self-portrait. It seems he’s never quite finished with his quest to be understood.
Catch Mayer next at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA on Sunday, July 28th. For a full list of John Mayer’s upcoming tour dates, ticketing, and more information, head to his website.
Setlist: John Mayer | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 7/26/2019
Set 1: Heartbreak Warfare, Love On the Weekend, Changing, Moving On and Getting Over, Waiting On the Day, No Such Thing, Who Says, Rosie, Edge of Desire, In the Blood
Set 2: Waiting On the World to Change (w/ Inner City Blues interpolation), I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You), Belief, Gravity, Heart of Life, Vultures, Stop This Train, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, Bold As Love, Dreaming With a Broken Heart, In Repair, I’m Gonna Find Another You
Encore: Still Feel Like Your Man, New Light