WANTAGH, NY — There was a time when squealing teenagers would scream for John Mayer.
Don't be mistaken, there are still a lot of young girls going to JM concerts in flower crowns and matching T-shirts, but the majority of the screaming comes from the middle-aged men. These men aren't just the dads of those girls, but they're dedicated fans, there with their wives or buds, shouting, "We love you, John!"
Mayer, on his Born and Raised Tour, shows a decidedly more mature side than his Heavier Things days, drenching his band in denim and tying a weather-worn scarf on his head. An animated background of canyon rocks symbolizes his move to the Montana country, his independence and his folk growth.
"It's a weird thing to grow up in front of you guys," Mayer said in a vulnerable speech toward the end of his set. It's been 12 years since his first album was released, and in 2012 and 2013 he released two more back-to-back, totaling his studio album count to six. Unable to tour for his 2012 LP, Born and Raised, while recovering from vocal surgery, his current tour includes new material from two records, something Mayer is a little insecure about.
"I wonder if anyone cares or connects," he said to the crowd, who would cheer enthusiastically for his older hits like "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)," but rest during the new ones. "It's really uneasy."
John sprinkled in a few of those crowd-pleasers throughout Wednesday night at Jones Beach, but he rounded out the set with newer tunes like "Wildfire" and "Paper Doll." Girlfriend Katy Perry sat near the sound booth in the middle of the amphitheater, looking on proudly.
The smell of over-priced beer clung to the sticky beach air as JM dove in with his nine-piece band. They doubled up on drum sets, had a few guitars, an electric bass, a pedal steel guitar, organ, keyboards and two harmonizing backup singers. Old bandmate Steve Jordan took one of the drum sets, pounding out a dramatic solo during the encore. Mayer, of course, took center stage, contorting his face with every stroke — sometimes he'd puff his cheeks out like a blowfish and other times he'd twist his lips and brow like sucking on a sour lemon.
No matter how loud his fans cheered, he admitted that he is still learning not to fret over acceptance. "Not worrying is a skill. It's a skill not breaking down every single moment, speaking to yourself as your biggest critic — that doesn't exist," he said.
The band covered "Going Down the Road Feelin' Bad," a song popularized by the Grateful Dead, and Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'," a Mayer favorite. He concluded the set with "Gravity," a slow ballad about self-assurance that melds into the ultimate show-ending jam. The lead guitar's notes moved so fast that they meshed together while the backup singers held down the gospel chords.
Fiery tumbleweed floated from the animated desert scene behind him like the random puffs of smoke rising from the Long Island crowd. And as Mayer gathered his band together for one final bow, his faithful followers were released into the night — all generations of them — skipping, hobbling and shuffling to the exits.