John Mayer at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL

With no band and no setlist, John Mayer threw out all of the rules to treat fans to a unique experience for his Solo Tour

Sharing the stage only with the techs who helped switch out his various guitars, John Mayer embarked on his first-ever Solo Tour earlier this year. Following a successful Spring leg, new dates were added for Fall which included a stop at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

After opening for Mayer during the first Solo tour shows in spring, Canadian singer JP Saxe returned with his own solo act. Saxe’s newest album A Gray Area was released in September of 2023 and features the single “I Don’t Miss You,” co-written by Mayer himself. The pair previously collaborated on a live performance of Saxe’s song “Here’s Hopin” in 2021. Graphics on the screen along the back of the stage displayed Saxe’s name along with an animated loop of dripping paint, resembling the artwork of A Gray Area, as the singer took a seat at a similarly decorated piano. Following acoustic performances of the single plus a few more tracks from the new album, including a partially acapella rendition of “Who You Thought I’d Be,” Saxe closed his 30-minute set with one of his most popular releases to date, “If the World Was Ending.”

Anticipation within the crowd grew as the set changeover began. Fans who had seats in the front rows of the floor were giddy with excitement for what the rest of the evening would hold, sharing stories with their neighbors about previous experiences at John Mayer shows and getting their handmade signs locked and loaded. Once the stage was set with only a piano stage right, a microphone dead center, and a chair stage left, the lights dimmed and Mayer’s silhouette appeared waving to the crowd before taking a seat with his guitar.

The opening number “Heartbreak Warfare,” was played in relative darkness before the lights fully illuminated the stage for “Love on the Weekend.” Early on in the set, it was clear that this show would not be traditional. The fans with their signs had clearly been aware and prepared because a main staple of the Solo Tour is crowd interaction. Without a definitive setlist, Mayer seemingly decided which songs to play on the spot, based on either his own intuition or crowd requests.

After spending some time center stage, Mayer moved to the piano to perform two songs, “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me” and “Changing.” During the latter, Mayer picked up a guitar, playing both it and the piano simultaneously, for an impressive instrumental break. Another behind-the-scenes look, this time from the Continuum recording sessions, segued from the piano section as Mayer left the bench. Fans in the crowd cheered wildly as they were treated to “Stop This Train,” “Daughters,” and “Your Body Is a Wonderland.”

With Mayer’s current format, even his most popular songs are not guaranteed; one of the singer’s most beloved tracks “Gravity” was noticeably absent. There is a give and take with this, however – by missing out on some of these staples, fans are given the rare opportunity to experience more underrepresented tracks. Sandwiched between two of the aforementioned hits was “Hummingbird,” a song Mayer had not played live since 2008. Mayer ended his set by switching out his acoustic guitar with a double-neck acoustic for the last three songs.

One of the few tracks that has had a consistent spot across the Solo shows has been “Edge of Desire.” The bright, strobing lights that accompanied the song felt like a finale in comparison with the solid-colored lights that remained mostly constant throughout the rest of the set. As they faded out, Mayer briefly left the stage before returning for a short encore of two songs. After “Born and Raised,” fans swayed and sang along to the cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” to end the night.

John Mayer’s Solo Tour continues its North American run this Fall before heading to Europe early next year.

JOHN MAYER
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JP SAXE
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AMALIE ARENA
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About Courtney Thomassen 10 Articles
After spending years as an avid fan of music and photography, Courtney's separate interests became a singular passion in the summer of 2021. Ever since that first concert post-lockdown, she has strived to capture the nights worth remembering. There is nothing that beats the rush of live music, but being able to relive that time through photographs sure comes close.