John Mayer knows a thing or two about writing songs. The chameleonic guitar wunderkind has scored hits across genres, and found equal success in crafting blues and pop tracks.
Being a great songwriter comes from understanding great songs. And, as Mayer’s impressive covers repertoire shows, he has that knowledge in spades. Not just a great player and a great writer, Mayer knows how to interpret other peoples’ material to maintain the character of the original while injecting his own unique flavour.
To see what we’re talking about, check out these three incendiary live covers.
Doing a cover of an iconic song justice is one thing. Making it your own? That’s something else entirely. In this acoustic performance from the Nokia Theatre, Mayer absolutely owns Tom Petty’s classic “Free Fallin’” with an acoustic spin that brings his vocal dexterity to the fore.
It’s a sublime performance, with Mayer taking Petty’s original vocal melody and running with it to beautiful effect. Hats off too to Robbie McIntosh and David Ryan Harris, whose tasteful guitar playing and backing vocals elevate an already excellent rendition.
Wait Until Tomorrow
There’s something magical about a power trio firing on all cylinders. And, as far as power trios go, they don’t come much more magical than the John Mayer Trio. Mayer himself is already a powerhouse, but when you’ve got Steve Jordan and Pino Paladino filling out the bottom end… sheer perfection.
That’s apparent from the absolutely stonking groove that the band lays down on this balls-out version of Hendrix’s Wait Until Tomorrow. From the moment Jordan’s first snare shot rings out, it’s absolutely infectious. Mayer’s solo, meanwhile, is mesmerizing, effortlessly fluid and channelling the late, great Mr. Hendrix, but with a distinctive flair all of its own. Top Notch.
Gentle on My Mind
What’s the right way to play tribute to a musical legend? There’s no one answer to that question, but John Mayer’s heartfelt homage to Glen Campbell is a pretty good template.
Performed just after Campbell had passed from a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, Mayer prefaced his rendition of Gentle on My Mind (one of Mayer’s favourite songs) with the following disclaimer:
“I’m going to play this song with more love than precision. And I play it because it’s my favourite song in the world. And whether I play it right or wrong, I’d rather have played it.”
Mayer need not have worried about a lack of precision. His tender take on the Campbell classic was effortlessly fluid, tender, and did justice to the stalwart original.
Have you ever seen John Mayer live? And what’s your number one Mayer cover moment? As always, share your stories in the comments section!