John Mayer, Michael Franti & Spearhead
North Charleston Coliseum
Let me tell you something about John Mayer. He may incite high-pitched teenage girl screaming, but this guy is a serious musician who can shred some electric guitar and spend entertaining minutes on musical monologues. Something else about John Mayer? At his shows, I would frankly leave the kids at home.
This is contrary to his opening band Monday evening (Feb. 8) at the North Charleston Coliseum — Michael Franti and Spearhead, who were anything but scandalous. Franti has a kind of onstage enthusiasm that feels like sunshine on your face. He's a low-key guy, even though his music is high-energy. The dread-locked gentleman even ran out into the audience, shaking hands and kissing babies. At one point, he played a couple tunes next to a very confused guy in the nosebleed section who'd gotten up to get a beer and had returned to find Franti and a guitar.
Finally, for the rendition of his only chart hit "Say Hey (I Love You)," he called every kid in the arena up on stage with him, and he even let a cute little girl sing the chorus with him. Franti and Spearhead made me feel like a kid again, with the hot background singer dressed in a Sgt. Pepper-esque uniform, the perfect harmonies, and the effortless enthusiasm of their reggae beat.
John Mayer did not make me feel like a kid again. He made me feel ... well, let's not go there. Suffice to say, the man might as well have been playing in a boudoir. Prior to his show, they wrapped the stage in what appeared to be mosquito netting. I wasn't sure if he was warding off bugs or teenagers. In reality, this netting worked as a movie screen, projecting a 30-foot-tall projection of Mayer above his avid fans. When the screen opened, there he was, dressed casually in all black with spiky hair that (I swear) kept getting bigger with every song.
There is a lot of hype surrounding this musician. He's a lady-killer. He's kind of a jerk. Yeah, well who cares? On stage, Mayer put on a guitar show that even Clapton would have approved of. During renditions of "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," "Gravity," and yes, even Clapton's "Crossroads," Mayer wailed on the Fender guitar. The arena was an ideal venue for the reverberating jazz chords and screaming melodies that even outdid the screaming teens.
He demonstrated an ideal relationship with his band, too. They play off each other, and Mayer made song decisions off the cuff just to see if they could keep up.
Yes, "He's so sexy" comments did abound, but I didn't care about Mayer's Elvis-styled hip motions or mid-riff orgasm face. I cared about the clean, polished sound of his band and the music — and Mayer's expressive, clear, and excellent singing style. His drummer (Mayer called him his "supplier of the groove") made even me want to scream like a little girl, and, okay, I did a little.
Mayer obviously loved being on stage. With his backing band, he sounded as crisp as a studio album. He was funny, but he wasn't too kid-friendly, made perfectly evident by cuss-word spattered rants and the Elvis hips. At the end, he said he could have played for two more hours. Then, he went into his face-melting rendition of "Gravity," and I realized, two more hours would have been just fine.