John Mayer

 

While Norah Jones became the official darling of this year’s Grammy Awards, guitarist and songwriter John Mayer‘s loss to her as Best New Artist was softened by his surprise win for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Mayer’s nod was especially impressive given that three of his fellow nominees (Sting, James Taylor and Elton John) share nine prior awards in that category alone. So how exactly did Mayer sidestep mere notoriety for the more scintillating status of sensation? The answer: legions of screaming teenage girls ready to repeat every lyric at the top of their shrill lungs, something that becomes annoyingly apparent on his double-disc live release Any Given Thursday. Recorded last fall at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater outside Birmingham, Alabama, the album captures Mayer as he audibly mugs for the crowd, pacing through cuts with the practiced sophistication of a Saturday night pickup artist. Yet there’s more to Mayer than meets the eye. His natural sense of melody eclipses Dave Matthews’ in many respects, and his guitar work keeps this age-old formula from tiring too quickly. A rock-solid cover of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” shows that Mayer has little trouble branching out, even if he isn’t straying too far from his own strengths. But in the end, it’s the Teen Beat contingent that makes Any Given Thursday — and this gig — a dicey proposition. Although Mayer is easy to root for, this show might leave some listeners wishing that his ‘bopper fans had never found their way out of the mall parking lot.

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