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Concert Reviews:
Cold doesn't stop John Mayer from playing a hot show at DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- John Mayer was suffering from a cold on Wednesday night, Aug. 7, at the DTE Energy Music Theater -- "an all-American summer cold." And he was happy about it.

After "two years of the weirdest things you can have in your throat" -- including granulomas that required surgeries and forced him to cancel his 2012 tour plans -- a pedestrian virus was nothing for Mayer, who extolled the virtues of "this new alcoholic drink, Nyquil." The cold may have leveled the high end of his vocals a bit during the two-hour and 15-minute show, but it certainly didn't dull Mayer's buoyant spirit throughout the evening -- and the Nyquil certainly seemed to make an impact on Mayer's lengthy (and sincere) expressions of gratitude to fans for supporting him through the medical issues.

Thursday's show -- sporting a stage set modeled after Utah's majestic Monument Valley -- unveiled the latest of Mayer's ever-shifting array of subtly shifting performing personas, looking like someone straight out of Haight-Ashbury in the late 60s with a workshirt, jeans and scarf tied around his head. The 19-song set's music, meanwhile, beat a path between the jammy conventions of that scene -- particularly the spacey segue from the rarely played "Wheel" into "Paper Doll," one of three songs from Mayer's upcoming new album "Paradise Valley" -- and the airy melodicism of the early 70s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter movement. Mayer and his seven piece band also nodded to the loose-limbed shuffles of Tulsa, Okla., via covers of JJ Cale's "Call Me the Breeze" (also from "Paradise Valley") and Eric Clapton's "Lay Down Sally," while "Wildfire," another "Paradise Valley" track, was a twangy, Bakersfield-flavored hand-clapper.

Thursday's focus was on musicianship as much as melodicism. Though he did offer a solo acoustic version of "Your Body Is a Wonderland," which he referred to as "the cultural butt of a joke," Mayer and company left the catchy, earnest pop of his early career largely to the side, focusing instead on expansive song arrangements that showcased not only Mayer's guitar playing but also left room for veteran multi-instrumentalist Doug Pettibone and others in the group. The "Born and Raised" album got its delayed due with five songs played, including the show-opener "Queen of California" and strong renditions of the title track, "If I Ever Get Around to Living" and "The Age of Worry." Extended versions of "Waiting on the World to Change" and "Vultures" were also highlights, along with Tom Petty's "Free Fallin' " in a duo presentation with Pettibone and an encore that fused an instrumental bit of the Grateful Dead's "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" with Mayer's own "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room."

Besides promising the DTE crowd that he plans to come back every summer and "grow old with you guys," Mayer also gave props to opening act Phillip Phillips for "shaking" the onus of being an "American Idol" winner. The Georgia singer-songwriter certainly sounded unlike anything the show has produced during his languid 45-minute opening set on Thursday, although he might have a harder time establishing his own identity with a repertoire that sounds like he's invested in becoming the next Dave Matthews. His hit single "Home" did bring Mayer's crowd to its feet, however, and was more successful than an unnecessary cover of Eminem's "Lose Yourself."



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