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John Mayer has been music’s soft rock icon since he burst onto the scene with his critically acclaimed debut Room for Squares in 2001. Since then, Mayer’s star has risen to extraordinary heights, winning seven Grammy awards and charting numerous times on Billboard’s Hot 100.
However, before Mayer reached his status as one of pop/rock/blues fusion’s biggest icons, he was just “John from Connecticut”. A man who wanted to share his heart, soul, and music with as many people as he could. Luckily, “John from Connecticut” got that chance with his DVD/live album release Where the Light Is.
Released in 2008, concurrently with the DVD of the same name, Where the Light Is is a two-and-a-half hour journey through Mayer’s world. Three sets. Three bands. Three different sides of John Mayer.
Filmed in Los Angeles, Mayer starts the concert with his “acoustic set” – 4 original songs, followed by a cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’. Here, he intended to showcase his guitar skills. Most musicians wouldn’t dare do this without the backing of a full band, but it’s a testament to Mayer’s confidence, and ability, that he not only attempted this, but pulled it off.
The concert then transitions into what Mayer calls his “blues set”. His blues band, the John Mayer Trio, join him on stage. Consisting of two of Mayer’s travelling bandmates, the John Mayer Trio is a departure from Mayer’s usual pop-rock style. During this segment of the concert, Mayer gives us his best B.B. King impression and displays his mastery of the genre with various originals and covers.
Lastly, with the third and final segment, the “full band set”, we return to John Mayer as “the superstar”. Mayer takes the stage for one last time to play some of his classic tracks like, ‘Why Georgia’, ‘Waiting on the World to Change’, and my personal favourite, ‘Belief’. This is where we get to see Mayer at his best, playing and enjoying the songs that made him a household name.
Mayer commands the stage, showing why he’s considered one of the great performers of our generation. This is what makes Where the Light Is so important in Mayer’s career.
Where the Light Is coincides with Mayer’s release of his third studio, Continuum. Often regarded as Mayer’s magnum opus, the album received a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal performance, among countless other accolades. The subsequent release of this DVD and the live album gives viewers a snapshot of a time where Mayer’s star was rising and his songwriting peaked. This album also has a pretty big significance to me on a personal level.
I was heading into my first year of college when I discovered this record. My friends had always rated Mayer, but I never paid him or his music any attention. Eventually, I caved and gave it a shot. Mayer’s stylistic versatility surprised me. He was always a pure “pop” artist in my eyes, so hearing him play the blues, and several songs off of his Continuum record, shocked me. Where the Light Is quickly became the soundtrack to my freshman year, getting me through all types of difficult situations.
Mayer’s lyricism, technical ability, and charisma are all apparent on this album. It took him from ordinary pop star to one of music’s biggest stars. Under pressure to sell out in today’s music market, Mayer continues to stay true to his roots. All it took was John Mayer, his guitar, and two hours in the City of Angels.