John Mayer/Phillip Phillips – Barclays Center – December 17, 2013
Barclays Center welcomed thousands last night for the final performance of John Mayer’s Born and Raised tour. Phillip Phillips kicked off the night with some standout numbers from his debut album, World from the Side of the Moon. It’s no wonder he took the title of American Idol in the show’s eleventh season. Phillips’ stage presence instantly won over the audience, as did his soulful warbling. “Home” and “Where We Came From,” two crowd favorites, highlighted the set. Phillips also gave a husky-voiced performance of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” which got the crowd singing along before he did some serious justice to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” by lending his throaty twang to the rapper’s anthem.
Mayer strode onstage flanked by some exceptionally talented musicians and supporting vocalists. The stage was backlit with a brilliant landscape depicting a desert at dusk, which morphed throughout the performance. The band launched into “Queen of California.” Mayer expressed that had created a set list that would take us on a journey, and he emphasized his gratitude for his talented bandmates. “Half of My Heart” and “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” followed, punctuated by Mayer’s extensive guitar solos. “Why Georgia” brought on a wave of nostalgic cheers, and Mayer directed the song’s chorus to the audience, asking, “Are you living it right?” He then brandished a harmonica for the forlorn ballad “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey.” “Who Says” and “Speak for Me” provided an optimistic upswing as the band hit their stride in the extensive set. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” briefly dipped back into melancholy before the cheerful melodies and earnest crooning in “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” and “Wildfire” swept us up once again. “Waiting on the World to Change” had the audience cheering instantly, to which Mayer gratefully responded, “I don’t know what I did to deserve you all.” An elongated “If I Ever Get Around to Living” ended with Mayer playing two guitars at once. And then the band closed the set with “The Age of Worry” and “Dear Marie.”
The crowd wasted no time cheering for an encore and voicing their enthusiasm for a certain special guest: Katy Perry. The pop songstress and Mayer had just released a music video for “Who You Love,” and the real-life couple have an easygoing kind of chemistry onstage that is much more relatable than their über-romantic onscreen version. Perry quickly kissed Mayer goodbye as he played a Christmas medley and rounded out the night with a triumphant rendition of “Gravity.” At the end of it all, Mayer was hunched over his guitar on the floor of the stage, beaming at the audience. And as someone who saw him perform more than a decade ago toward the beginning of his career, I can say without a doubt that he’s grown to be one of the best live performers out there. —Schuyler Rooth