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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The Mayer comes to town: John Mayer’s electrifying performance at Bridgestone

The electrifying performance showed the best of John Mayer and reminded us why we fell in love with his smooth rock and roll.
Sara West
John Mayer smiles while singing to the audience, as photographed on Oct. 11, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)

“God, John Mayer is really good at music.” That’s a real text I sent to a friend in the middle of Mayer’s concert Wednesday night. Even if that statement sounds so obvious, it can sometimes be easy to forget. When I think of John Mayer, I often think of the multitude of things he’s not so good at: celebrity relationships, interviews and reconciling with the Swifties. His genuinely exhilarating and breathtaking skill can sometimes get lost behind the bizarre headlines and inappropriate behavior. Wednesday night, though, he welcomed Nashville into his brilliant musical world and proved why he’s been the face of modern rock in the 21st century. 

This show was the fourth stop on the Fall leg of his solo tour. The Star Wars-inspired posters for the tour read “John Mayer Strikes Back,” referencing his return to solo performances. This slogan is fitting, as the tour feels like a victory lap for his career thus far, with him displaying videos of his younger self while reminiscing on the earlier stages of his career. Mayer, of course, burst onto the scene in 2001 with the acoustic-focused album “Room for Squares.” He then transitioned to a more blues-inspired rock and roll, which propelled him to superstar status. For the past several years, he’s been touring with Dead and Company, an endeavor that seems borne out of a genuine love of music rather than a desire for commercial success. His love of music was certainly on full display on Wednesday night. 

Mayer’s protégé, singer-songwriter JP Saxe opened the show with a passionate, almost painfully vulnerable performance. Even though he wore a matching rainbow two-piece suit, Saxe was incredibly down-to-earth, seeming genuinely ecstatic to open for John Mayer. He performed four songs on the guitar and three on the piano and was a stellar instrumentalist. He performed one particularly emotional song a cappella, which made the massive Bridgestone arena feel intimate. After his set, Saxe changed clothes and found his seat in the crowd. He looked like any other fan in the venue and took the time to interact with fans.

Saxe’s everyman attitude was in stark contrast to Mayer’s godlike presence. After a brief 20-minute changeover, Bridgestone went dark and the crowd erupted in excitement. Mayer walked out playing guitar and singing his hit song “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” which made the crowd cheer so loud it almost drowned out the music. This energy carried throughout his performance as he played an upbeat, energized set. While the medium was the same — both Saxe and Mayer played alone — their performances could not have been more different. Saxe was really raw and human, while Mayer seemed like a musical giant. 

Twelve songs in, Mayer traded his guitar for a piano and played fan favorites like “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me” and the slower pace provided some much-needed breathing room after an exhilarating first half hour. After three songs on the piano, Mayer opted for an electric guitar and steadily brought the energy back, with incredible control of the crowd. 

Mayer’s performance peaked when he performed a guitar solo with his right hand, while simultaneously playing piano chords with his left. This incredible display seemed the proper use of his swaggering showboat persona that has gotten him in trouble so often in the past. With the crowd in a full-on frenzy, Mayer concluded his set with hits like “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Changing.” He then abruptly walked off stage before a much-needed encore, including a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” Mayer said a brief thank you before receiving a standing ovation from the enlivened crowd. 

John Mayer belts into a microphone while performing at Bridgestone Arena, as photographed on Oct. 11, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)
(Sara West)

Mayer interacted a bit with the crowd, but the set felt like it was just for him. He would often close his eyes and smile while playing a groovy, intoxicating guitar solo. As he danced around the stage, he seemed so deeply entranced and overjoyed with the music that he forgot he was playing for an audience. That was more than okay with me. It was an honor to be welcomed to the musical mind of John Mayer. 

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About the Contributors
Nate Downey, Staff Writer
Nate Downey (‘27) is from Charlotte, N.C., and is majoring in history and economics in the College of Arts and Science. He is interested in fashion, cooking, movies and music. He can be reached at [email protected].
Sara West, Senior Staff Photographer
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts, thrifting and exploring new places. She was previously Deputy Photography Director and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating.  She can be reached at [email protected].
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4 months ago

“The swifties” please. Who does this guy think he is. She was only 19. Too young to be messed with the girl in the dress cried the whole way home.

4 months ago

Excellent article written by an even better guy.