LOS ANGELES — "I'm not here," John Mayer said, flashing devil horns backstage Thursday at the Staples Center.
"I'm not here," he said, bending his pinky and index finger into a fist.
"I'm about here, 45 degrees," he said.
And so is the point of Mayer and the Counting Crows' co-headlining summer tour — a concert for half-metal signs, a show somewhere between the Justified and Stripped Tour and Ozzfest.
With Ozzy, Lollapalooza and the Vans Warped Tour outlasting the Horde Festival and Lilith Fair, the best option for fans of the more sensitive side of rock is an outing like this, with a few of the most popular performing full sets.
Mayer, who played last Thursday, a few weeks into the tour, entertained the near-capacity crowd by taking the favorites from his breakthrough debut, Room for Squares, and subtly rearranging them with additional choruses, guitar solos and music and lyrics from songs including "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
All the action in the songs, carried by Mayer's easy-on-the-ears baritone voice and his Stevie Ray Vaughn-inspired guitar workings, kept fans on their feet, which made his hilarious between-song banter just icing on the cake.
"This song is an excuse," he said, before breaking into "My Stupid Mouth" early in his set.
"This song is responsible for exposing my sexual inadequacies to millions of people," he explained, introducing the popular "Your Body Is a Wonderland." "I'm glad I did that."
"Come Back To Bed" (live at the Staples Center)
And when it came time to play a few tunes from his upcoming Heavier Things, Mayer said, "You're probably pretty parched, so feel free to get a drink while I play a new song. ... No, no, never mind. Just stay; I think you'll like it."
Mayer was right; the crowd did like the new material, cheering during an extended jam and learning the catchy choruses as he sang them.
Before Mayer, the Counting Crows played an equally long 75-minute set, a mix of hits such as "Mr. Jones" and "Rain King" and songs from last year's Hard Candy. Highlights included a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," which turned the Staples Center into a choir, and "A Long December," which featured Adam Duritz on piano and additional accordion backing.
"And it's one more night in Hollywood," Duritz emphasized, causing an outburst of screams and raised beer cups.
Toward the end of the Crows' show, Duritz invited the group's family and friends from the side of the stage, including openers Maroon 5, to join them singing and dancing to the party starter, "Hangin' Around."
Maroon 5 received star treatment for an opener, with Duritz introducing the group, Mayer joining them on "This Love" and a nearly full arena enjoying their 35-minute set.
"We're from Los Angeles, and not in the, 'We moved here a few years ago to be an actor or a model' way," singer Adam Levine declared. "This is a special show for us, to play where the Lakers call home!"
Levine, whose voice blends the best of Jamiroquai's Jay Kay and Justin Timberlake, poured loads of energy into each song, dropping to his knees or jumping off monitors à la David Lee Roth. Now that's 45-degree metal.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.