On the eve of John Mayer's album release, hundreds of fans lined up outside the Music Hall of Williamsburg for a secret show presented by MySpace and Citi Forward. Starting the night with first track off Battle Studies, the room erupted into screams. A mix of new and old songs, the two-hour and fifteen minute set proved Mayer to be in his element as he displayed his killer guitar skills and comical side, continually joking with fans (one of which threw her bra at him). "They say I'm a womanizer. I say I haven't met enough women," he quipped.
A bluesy "Vultures" followed "Heartbreak Warfare" which segued nicely into "Crossroads," by far the most soulful track on Battle Studies, showcasing Mayer's guitar chops well. Replying to screams of "I love you" Mayer said, "I love you too. It's great to be back onstage with a guitar."
A standout performer, Mayer improvised continually throughout the night. On "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You) he slowed the beat down mid-song, telling his band, "Feel it out. Do what you guys feel." A nice glimpse into the John Mayer world of music, the song was sultry and soulful with a slight edge you could never witness from just listening to the album.
Surprisingly, the crowd knew most of the tracks off Battle Studies and sang along word for word during many of the songs. The optimistic tongue in cheek, "Perfectly Lonely" seemed to be a favorite from audience reaction.
Always the comedian, when a fan held a professionally designed sign that read, "Battle Studies: Warriors" he joked, "This is one of those school projects where your father is a genius . . . this gives a new standard to poster board and 3x5 signs." Before beginning, "Why Georgia," he told fans, "If you were afraid of me evolving away from you and if you were afraid that I could never be the guy who is still wondering what the hell is going on and think that I have it all, I play this for you as the kid in his mother's 1991 Plymouth Voyager living in Atlanta, Georgia."
Definitely a crowd favorite, "Why Georgia" took the audience back to where it all began: 2001's Room For Squares. A special surprise performance of "Comfortable" drew additional excitement. A song he hasn't played in a while, Mayer stated, "I'm going to try it." When failing to find the right note during the song he confessed, "I didn't know it then. I don't know it now."
The band left Mayer onstage solo for "Free Fallin,'" "Belief" and "War of My Life," a new track off Battle Studies, and a song he has yet to perform live. "Since this is a fan show and I know anything goes, I'm going to try a new song from the record we haven't played yet as a band." A slower ballad with moving lyrics, Mayer addressed the crowd mid-song. "Everyone is figuring out what their problems are in the continuum from bad to good. Whatever your problems are, big or small, all problems feel the same. For the things you're trying to get over, sing it with me," he said before singing the chorus: "I'm in the war of my life/At the core of my life/Got no choice but to fight 'til it's done."
And, what is a John Mayer concert without an intriguing rant? Known for garnering attention from the tabloids, Mayer said, "When I'm doing all this press and they say, 'What do you say to people who say you're a monstrous cad or a douchebag?' You know what I say? Here's what I say, (breaking into song) Let a man be lost for once in his lifetime/To sit in his own mind/To stare at the skyline/To live out his life all in the night sky/Let a man be lost."
Highlight of the night was Mayer's moving and incredible improvisation of "Gravity." The emotion transferred from Mayer to guitar was ethereal as the band accompanied with a long intro and instrumental interlude mid-song. The show could have ended right there and it would have been a solid two-hour set, but an encore was still in order. Coming back onstage for current single, "Who Says" and the gospel infused "Friends, Lovers or Nothing," Mayer closed his performance by taking pictures with fan's cameras and shaking the hands of those closest to the stage. For a man with such versatility and respect, I couldn't imagine a better way to end the night.
For those of you who weren't able to make the show last night in Brooklyn, Fuse will be broadcasting Mayer's Beacon Theater performance tonight at 9 P.M. I'll be watching, will you?
• Stream John Mayer's "Battle Studies"
• John Mayer Tells All At Z100's Z-Lounge
• John Mayer, Colbie Caillat and Brett Dennen Impress in New Jersey
• Blast From the Past: John Mayer Concert Review on MTV.com