John Mayer version 2.0 is in effect.
Or so he said during a 90-minute Friday night headlining site at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival, promising that things will “get incredibly groovy over the next couple of years.”
Booked for last year’s festival, the Grammy-winning crooner was forced to cancel due to a recurring throat ailment that silenced him for more than two years.
Although his vocals seemed in fine shape, well showcased with a soulful falsetto on “Vultures,” Mayer didn’t do a whole lot of talking from his perch on the Acura Stage. Mostly, he seemed thrilled to be performing live again, and let his axe-wielding acumen do the talking for him.
Sporting a cowboy hat, denim shirt and jeans, he kicked off the set with the country-folk “Queen of California” off 2012’s rootsy album, Born and Raised.
After trading in his acoustic for a Fender Stratocaster, he turned his back to the stage, tossed the hat, shook out his hair and picked it up a notch for “Something Like Olivia.”
He continued to parade out mouth-watering guitars and extended jams, even taking a rare turn on a Telecaster for a take on Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working.” Mayer and his stellar supporting band, which included two other guitarists, also covered Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” This version featured pedal steel guitar and organ, with Mayer using a wah-wah pedal to drive a slow-building solo.
Later in the set, he became slightly more verbose. He encouraged “crowd interaction” with some “bounce the ball” dance moves and offered up some truth serum in way of introducing “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey.”
“This is a song I wrote on a bender, a 12-month bender,” he said.” “But hey, I got a song out of it. That’s what they say.”
The set was definitely Born and Raised centric, but Mayer dusted off a handful of tunes from 2006’s Continuum, including crowd pleasers “Waiting on the World to Change” and “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” as well as “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You) and the funk-driven “Vultures.” The Jazz Fest set also included “Who Says” off 2009’s Battle Studies.
After introducing his bandmates, he noted, “We’ve got one more song so we’re going to hit it and quit it.”
They took their sweet time though, ending the night with a seven-minute long rousing cover of Grateful Dead’s “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.”
True, it’s been a long road for Mayer, and as the early portion of his performance seemed to reveal, it seemed that he still wasn’t sure if he was feeling so great. By the end, however, Mayer left no doubt that he is confidently back in the driver’s seat.