John Mayer wrapped the first leg of his solo acoustic tour Friday night at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and it surely won’t be the last fans will hear from him.
During multiple between-song moments on Friday night, Mayer talked about how much the solo trek — which kicked off last month in Newark, N.J., and will pick back up with new dates in September — has reinvigorated his creative drive. In fact, before the tour, he wondered whether his career as a solo artist might be behind him.
“I want to say something from the heart before I play this song,” Mayer told the 17,000-person-plus crowd before performing the yet-unreleased new song “Drifting,” which he’s been playing throughout the monthlong tour. “I wrote this song maybe not being sure what my next move was going to be as an artist. And as you get older and you’re an artist, not that it doesn’t creep in ever, but it starts to creep in more — this idea of like, ‘Well, maybe that was it. That was nice. I’ll be cool if that’s it. Maybe I’ll write songs for other people.’ But that’s the voice. … And so I wrote a couple of songs that are very kind of indicative of this idea that I’ll just go anywhere else to see what’s up. I’ll see what’s gonna happen.
“So I would say like six months ago, I wasn’t sure what my next move was,” he continued. “I wasn’t going to retire. I wasn’t going to disavow all this stuff. I just didn’t know. It was a lot of scratching my head like, ‘What’s the next thing?’ The point I’m trying to make is: This tour changed everything.”
He imagined the solo tour would be a self-indulgent one-off, during which he would play the songs he really wanted to play and not the ones that were his most commercially successful. Now, thanks to that fluid setlist, not only can he imagine what his next album will be, he can picture “the next three albums.”
“I thought this was a neat little thing,” Mayer said of the tour. “I was like, ‘Let’s go on tour and play acoustic, that’ll be fun!’ And then everything clicked. And because of you, you reminded me what these songs are to me, what they are to you and focused me right up. I don’t love giving advice, but I want you to take this home: No matter what you’re working on, if you’re working away and nothing’s coming of it, just remember that there are so many other variables in life that are moving, and every day you try the same thing — something’s different about that day, and you will hit it. You will hit the thing that shows you the way. This is that tour for me. I came out here and went: This is it. I just want to say thank you very much. And this is a song about drifting.”
Mayer’s monologue led into “Drifting,” a not-yet-recorded song about leaning into the unknown and letting an aimless adventure lead you in just the right direction. “Trying to write a story but I’m stuck on a page/ God, it’s been so long I can’t remember my age/ I’m lost till the minute that I step on the stage/ ‘Cause I’m drifting,” he sings on the rapid-fire bridge, referencing how he’s most comfortable performing.
Perusing Mayer’s Billboard chart history, he only played two of his seven top 20 Billboard Hot 100 hits on Friday night — 2009’s “Who Says” and 2002’s “Your Body Is a Wonderland” — instead filling the setlist with non-singles, superfan favorites and some choice covers (Beyoncé, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty). Basically, it was a free-flowing night that let Mayer change course on a dime (simultaneous shouted requests led to an impromptu performance of “3×5,” from his debut album Room for Squares) and it was clear he was having just as much fun as the crowd was. Being alone also showed off just how impressive his musical talent is, between a duet by himself on piano and electric guitar and truly filling up the arena with sound thanks to his slapping acoustic-guitar skills.
It’s no wonder he’s extended the tour, adding 20 more dates starting Sept. 27 in Hollywood, Fla., as well as a European leg in 2024. This is just the tour both John and his fans needed right now.
Find the full setlist for Friday night at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif., below as well as a fan recording of “Drifting” from the first night in Newark, N.J.:
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Love on the Weekend (with “Split Screen Sadness” and Def Leppard’s “Hysteria mixed in)
XO (Beyoncé cover)
On the Way Home
Last Train Home
Something Like Olivia
In You Atmosphere (with “Wherever I Go” outro)
You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me
I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea)
Stop This Train (with Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” outro)
The Age of Worry
Covered in Rain
Your Body Is a Wonderland
Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead cover)
If I Ever Get Around to Living (with Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” intro)
Edge of Desire
Born and Raised
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)