With each tour, John Mayer gets a little better at converting the tag-alongs into believers. His largely female aud of believers, who sway through his gentle rockers and mouth the lyrics of his easy-on-the-ears romantic hits, show up with husbands and boyfriends and fathers and partners, and it’s hard to believe they don’t return home as a two-Mayer household. It’s all in the presentation.
Chief among the reasons for the hard luck the concert biz is experiencing is the lack of acts moving from clubs to theaters to arenas with an organically developed audience. Mayer, an adept guitarist with a charming tenor, has made those leaps and improved his show along the way, expanding his band by three pieces, pacing the familiar tunes in the set rather than saving them for the end, and delivering a more convincing and less self-indulgent show than he did as a club act.
Obviously, the songs don’t suddenly get better — his two Columbia records are pleasant, guitar-driven pop that somehow became the sound for current Adult Contemporary/Alternative radio — but at Verizon there was no more of that nagging feeling that he nicked a fair amount of his game from Dave Matthews. If anything, he sounded more like a fan of the Police, and with the assistance (guidance?) of singer-guitarist David Ryan Harris, the overall groove is more soulful. Mayer and Harris confidently executed Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” a song that would have been mightily out of place in one of Mayer’s earlier tours.
He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to send listeners home with inspirational messages or a monumental perf — and he even acknowledges that. Mayer has a philosophy of having no philosophy, and that seems to work well in this day and age, letting his songs “Bigger Than My Body,” “Come Back to Bed” and “Why Georgia” do whatever talking needs to be done.
Opener Maroon 5, which has walked a much longer road to get to the top of the singles chart, wears two hats onstage: It’s a groove band that loves the compactness of a well-crafted tune and a hard rock outfit that finds inspiration in the bloat of ’70s rockers. The shorter, more soulful numbers, “Harder to Breathe” chief among them, have a greater lasting effect, and if the hits keep coming, it stands to figure that the act will begin to forsake some of the tired, droning guitar solos.
Mayer will play at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Aug. 8.