John Mayer at Red Rocks Amphitheatre day one, 7-15-13 (photos, review)

During his first of two sold out shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Tuesday, John Mayer took a break to tell the nearly 10,000 gathered that this is “Not a normal musician/fan relationship.” And this sentiment was spot on, but not in the normal, hollow “musician compliments audience” type of way. There’s a wonderful dichotomy between performer and audience at a Mayer concert.


Here’s what I mean: The bulk of the audience goes to the Mayer concert to gush. He’ll pick up an acoustic guitar, play “Half of my Heart” or “Stop this Train” and the fans will scream and sing every word. For Mayer, on these songs it feels like he’s going through the motions. He performs, his gravely tone spot on and seductive as ever (though, occasionally weak on the high notes), and he’s done what he needs to do to make fans happy.

But it’s when he switches to his electric guitar that he truly emotes. On “Slow Dancing In a Burning Room,” the superstar, pop persona is torn down and there’s true passion in his peppering of solos. The problem is, the fans aren’t with him. Oh yes, they’ll patiently watch, but there’s nothing to sing along to about love or loneliness or more love.

So there’s a split there. Is he the heartthrob singer-songwriter? Or is he the shredder who has been named one of the best modern guitarists? The only explanation I could come up with is that he’s a fantastic musician who isn’t entirely convinced by his own music.

The disconnect continued beyond his music to his personality on stage. He seemed relaxed, humble, but completely on his own level. This is why he was so comfortable stopping the show to play a few songs for some dude in the crowd wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt.

Even lyrically, he pointed out how he’s often in his own world. Before playing “Waiting on the World to Change,” he mentioned that people normally think of it as a hopeless song, but he believes the exact opposite.

While attempting to grasp Mayer’s identity as a performer and as a musician, the concert flew by. Having started at 9 p.m., suddenly it was nearly 11. His technical ability, along with his band — who could follow wherever Mayer decided to take the song — were compelling to watch.

And finally, when Mayer performed “Gravity” near the end of the show, everyone seemed to be on the same page. He introduced the song with some honesty: He couldn’t really hit some of the notes on the chorus so he asked the crowd for help. Then, it was harmony between heartthrob and musician as Mayer bent that bluesy riff and the audience sang every word.

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Daniel Petty is a Denver-based photographer and social media editor at The Denver Post.