Concert Reviews

John Mayer, Colbie Caillat and Brett Dennen Impress in New Jersey

Shortly after 9 p.m. the lights flickered and PNC Bank Arts Center went dark amidst incessant screams and flashing cameras. A guitar could be heard in the distance and within seconds John Mayer walked onstage starting the night off with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” It seemed only fitting, being that he was playing in Springsteen’s home turf. However, many in attendance weren’t familiar with the song as a confused hush rose throughout the crowd.

Clearly in his element Tuesday night, Mayer told the crowd, “This doesn’t get old at all. There’s nothing like playing a show and knowing I can sleep in my own bed tonight” before he rattled off each television network in the tri-state area adding: “I like playing the places where I know the TV stations.” Mayer played a nearly two-hour set while opening acts Colbie Caillat and Brett Dennen thoroughly impressed the crowd.

For those hard-core John Mayer fans, his current summer tour is different than previous tours. His set was made up of three segments — his more popular songs, some blues numbers and covers as well as an encore where the fans pick which song is played by voting on his Web site. Mayer’s set did not disappoint as he changed up his more well-known songs with varied guitar riffs and instrumental features, slowing down or speeding up the tempo from time to time. When introducing hit single, “Daughters” Mayer told the crowd, “This is a song called ‘Daughters 1974′” before playing the song slowly and breaking into a cover of Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” while cleverly singing, “She’s always a daughter to me.”

The night included impeccable covers of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” as well as Van Halen’s “Panama,” which got the girls swooning as he took off his shirt and jumped around the stage releasing his inner Eddie Van Halen while playing guitar. Mayer made a 10-year-old birthday girl’s night when he serenaded her in a round of “Happy Birthday” before segueing into “Waiting On the World to Change.”

Despite the various cover songs he included in his set, crowd favorites seemed to be his better-known material. Bluesy number “Gravity” as well as current single “Say” from movie, The Bucket List, gained much excitement from the crowd while older songs such as radio hit “No Such Thing” and “Bigger Than My Body” garnered much attention as well.

Brett Dennen opened the night and had an impressive set featuring many songs from his most recent album, So Much More. His music encompasses a blend of folk and blues and is thoroughly enjoyable. Songs like “She’s Mine” and “Ain’t No Reason” demonstrated Dennen’s versatility and craft as a singer-songwriter.

Colbie Caillat followed Dennen with a solid 40-minute, nine song set. Her light, airy voice had the crowd singing along throughout most of her performance, especially radio hits “Bubbly” and “Realize” off of current album, Coco. Before introducing “On the Wire” she told the crowd, “This song is about overcoming your fears and I’m trying to do that every day,” referencing her stage fright. Alternating between the mic and playing guitar, her performance was strong, both vocally and instrumentally.

Caillat prefaced “Bubbly” by saying, “This song goes out to anyone out there that’s in love right now.” Teasing the audience by starting the song at a much slower pace than fans were familiar with; her performance sounded like a remix of the radio hit at first. Soon after, she picked up the tempo everyone was used to hearing. Highlight of the set, and crowd favorite, seemed to be Caillat’s soulful Jackson 5 cover of “One More Chance.”

While at some shows, opening acts seem to be less highly regarded than the headliner, Dennen and Caillat definitely impressed, and Mayer’s 16-song set did not disappoint the packed crowd at PNC Bank Arts Center either. “We hope tonight is a night you can forget all your problems and think about the best time in your life and revisit it for the next two hours,” Mayer told the audience early on in his set. And for most, I think he succeeded.

Special thanks to Deana Koulosousas for taking the photos from the show Tuesday night.

For more on Brett Dennen check out his MySpace.
To listen to Colbie Caillat’s music check her out on MySpace.
For more on John Mayer’s tour check out his Website or MySpace.