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Concert Rewind: John Mayer and Train

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer is the time for relaxing. For boat rides. For tanning on the beach. For new romance. For concerts. For sleeping in until 2 p.m. For lazy Sunday brunches.

That atmosphere of summer is a tough one to catch in these times when summer jobs are a must. But when it is possible to capture this feeling, it’s worth the hassle to achieve it. On Aug. 6 at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Mass., Train and John Mayer gave their audience — around 10,000 people of all ages — this beloved summer experience.

Train, the opening band, played a solid hour and a half before Mayer came out. They proved that despite their three-year hiatus, they are still relevant and talented. They also proved that the skinny jean trend is permeating all groups of people, not just hipsters and indie bands, as the rock band’s lead singer, Patrick Monahan, sported a snug pair.

The band’s set was fantastic and included hits from all five of their albums. Monahan especially shined, showing off his amazing vocal skills and sense of humor. Although he sang and joked for a straight 90 minutes, he still held extended notes in the set’s finale, the band’s first big single, “Drops of Jupiter.”

In fact, Monahan and his band mates actually sounded better live than they did on the radio, which was a refreshing change from the overly retouched voices of many of today’s pop artists.

Train added humor to their set by playing one song in what Monahan called “country twang,” responding to the release on CMT of “Hey Soul Sister,” the first single off their new album, “Save Me San Francisco.”

A highlight of their set came near the end. Donning a white shirt, Monahan serenaded the fans with the moving song “Marry Me,” which he wrote for his wife. As he sang, he circled the arena, giving out high fives. Even though the band was just an opening act, Train put on an incredible show and demonstrated that they were worthy of headlining a future concert.

But as good as Train was as an opener, there is little that can surpass John Mayer in concert.

From the moment he walked out on stage, it was clear that this would be a different concert than his first ones. Gone was the clean-cut Mayer in a button-down shirt and slacks.

This John was wearing that button-down, but it was sleeveless in order to show off his left arm sleeve tattoo. His shaggy hair was kept back by a folded white bandana. This John was edgy and hardened, no longer crooning “Your Body is Wonderland” to an imaginary woman. He was bitter, but was still his usual comic, laid-back self who could play a mean guitar.

He started off his set with “Vultures” from his 2006 album “Continuum.” From there he proceeded to play a mind-blowing two-hour-plus set with countless guitar changes and favorite tracks from all of his four solo albums.

As pictures and videos, artfully timed and directed, appeared on the screen behind stage, Mayer’s caramel voice washed over the masses, mixing seamlessly with the images.
Between songs, Mayer offered witty comments and humorous advice. As he introduced the pavilion seats to the lawn seats, he called the Comcast Center his “unified machine of groove,” which he hoped was ready to rock with him.

And Mayer, a native of Fairfield, Conn., was delighted to return to New England. He had toured Berklee College of Music, which he attended for one year, earlier that day and met with students, giving them a quick lesson about “groove.” At the concert, he was supremely concerned with his own groove because he wanted to be able to put his “scholastic teachings to good use.”

He might not be the most articulate person, but his songs speak to your soul.
Despite his seemingly self-absorbed nature, Mayer kindly shared the limelight at the concert. He not only highlighted his own outstanding guitar skills with a solo or two, but also the musical genius of his band. From the saxophonist to the drummer, each showcased their talent in a solo.

From “Vultures” to his closing songs, “Half of My Heart” and “Edge of Desire,” Mayer and his band more than delivered, providing an entertaining and memorable concert. The only disappointment was the exclusion of fans’ concert favorites “Daughters” or “I’m On Fire,” a Bruce Springsteen cover.

That night, as Mayer sang the chorus of his hit “Why Georgia,” repeating “Am I living it right?” the resonating answer for the audience was an overwhelming “yes.”