John Mayer

Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles (Columbia '08) Rating: A-
There are two John Mayers, and the problem is that they don’t always easily coexist with one another. The first John Mayer, the really popular one that most people are familiar with, delivers pleasantly bland easy listening radio fodder that’s beloved by soccer moms the world over (including my lovely wife who isn’t a soccer mom but she is a baseball/basketball/flag football mom!). The second John Mayer, who is showcased far more on this live album than on any of his prior studio albums, is the blues guitar virtuoso who is greatly respected by fellow musicians and blues aficionados. It’s the latter John Mayer that attracted me to this album, but this John Mayer doesn’t show up until the sixth song, which is where I usually start this album as the first five songs comprise a solo acoustic set that on the whole doesn’t do a whole lot for me (“In Your Atmosphere” is very good though). The trio set, which starts with “Every Day I Have The Blues” and finishes with “Bold As Love” (one of two Hendrix covers, the other being “Wait Until Tomorrow”), is very good if a tad generic at times (more a problem I have with blues songwriting in general than Mayer in particular). For one thing, he’s a better blues singer than I would’ve expected, his guitar playing is consistently strong and sometimes truly inspired (at these moments he at times makes me think of Stevie Ray Vaughan which is a good thing needless to say), and his trio bandmates, drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Pino Palladino, are both seasoned vets who duly impress. The full band section is where he breaks out some of his best known songs (“Waiting On the World To Change,” “Why Georgia,” “Gravity,” “Belief”) in versions that generally improve upon the originals, and he also adds Ray Charles (“I Don’t Need No Doctor”) and Otis Redding (a brief run through “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” which leads into “Gravity”) covers. So, this album covers the full spectrum of what John Mayer has to offer (other highlights include “Vultures,” “The Heart Of Life,” and the slow burning “I Don’t Trust Myself With Loving You”), except those who enjoy his blues side (probably best represented by the 10-minute “Out Of My Mind”) might not enjoy the pop material nearly as much (and vice versa). Still, this album makes me think that I’ve really underrated this guy’s talent, as this album shows that he’s quite adept at both styles.

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