BY ARIELLE KASS/AJC Reporter
There’s no question that John Mayer is a wizard on the guitar.
He showed off his chops at Lakewood Amphitheatre Thursday night, switching instruments in his two-hour set more often than some pop stars change their costumes. It seemed like every song he played had a guitar solo that extended the length of the song by half.
People in the packed amphitheater, who late in the show waved cell phone flashlights in the air, couldn’t have been happier. They stayed on their feet for the duration.
Mayer started the night with “Helpless” and “Moving on and Getting Over,” a pair of songs from his new album, “The Search for Everything.” As the latter wound down, he started to trade riffs with guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, saying he wasn’t ready for the song to end.
The show, broken up into four chapters and an epilogue, showcased a wide range of Mayer’s catalog — from the country-tinged “Wildfire” to the bluesier “Born and Raised,” complete with Mayer on harmonica.
He brought bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan back for several songs as the John Mayer Trio, and the group played a mashup of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” before moving on to “Vultures.” And Mayer made fun of his younger self for writing “Your Body Is a Wonderland,” saying he now enjoys playing it “while staring dudes in the face.”
Mayer said early in the show that he’d finally caught a cold that had been chasing him for months, but felt fine. The cold wasn’t evident in his vocals, which were largely rich and smooth.
Mayer got his start in Atlanta, playing Eddie’s Attic and Smith’s Olde Bar, and his local shows are always a bit nostalgic. Thursday, he talked about his first apartment, in Duluth, and writing “Neon” in the city.
“Atlanta’s my musical birthplace,” he said. “There’s nothing like an Atlanta show for me.”
David Ryan Harris, a frequent collaborator when Mayer was in Atlanta who is touring with him on guitar, came up during the acoustic part of the show. Mayer sang backup on Harris’ “Pretty Girl” and the two played a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” Later in the show, Harris used Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” to segue into a knockout version of “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.”
Over and over again, Mayer said he wanted to give as much as he could to the audience, and he played like he was having fun. He had a grin on his face as he moved around the stage, and played guitar with his eyes closed as he wowed the crowd with the sounds he could coax from his guitars.
Wearing dark pants, a T-shirt and a sweatband in his hair, Mayer played against an ever-changing backdrop with pictures of trees, the inside of a barn or a kaleidoscopic version of his face. He led a singalong on “Why Georgia” and closed out the night with “Gravity,” leaving room for vocalists Tiffany Palmer and Carlos Ricketts to sing an interlude of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.”
Mayer held his hand over his heart toward “Gravity”‘s final notes.
“It’s amazing to come back,” he said as the show came to an end. “It’s a homecoming every time.”