The only thing he knows about playing music in Atlanta, John Mayer said, is that he needs to talk to the crowd to seek understanding.
He did it for years while tuning his guitar on-stage at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur. But Friday night, the enthusiastic crowd at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood understood Mayer just fine through his music.
His voice strained at times, but his long, bluesy guitar jams and the rapt crowd more than made up for those rare moments. On “Neon,” he asked the audience to give him a hand on the choruses “to cover up the fact that it’s a bit difficult for me” after he took more than a year off from touring following surgery for granulomas in his throat. They happily complied.
Mayer deftly mixed newer songs, like “Dear Marie,” with more nostalgic fare. Before starting “Your Body is a Wonderland,” he reminisced about writing the song in his Duluth apartment.
“Can I still say I’m from here if I left in 2003? They were five of the best years in my life,” he said to screams from the crowd. “It’s just incredible to come back. I’m from here in my heart.”
He shook his hips and jumped on stage, matching the energy of an audience that didn’t sit down for the entirety of his set. Mayer, who went to Montana to record “Paradise Valley,” his latest album, played in front of a video screen depicting a mountain range with ever-changing skies.
Most of the crowd was old enough to recognize the cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” played in the midst of “Paper Doll.”
Older songs, such as “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” and “Gravity” were among the crowd favorites. But the night was defined by his long, intricate guitar riffs. During “If I Ever Get Around to Living,” Mayer played the electric guitar behind his back, having switched from the acoustic one in front of him.
The singer, who is as famous for putting his foot in his mouth as he is for his music, thanked fans for sticking by him and believing that he was “not everything the Google alerts tell you.”
He played “Why Georgia” in a one-song encore, pausing in the middle to again tell the audience how much Atlanta meant to him.
The city is “a beautiful place to pass through,” he said.
“Next summer, we’re going to play much longer shows,” Mayer said after playing “Vultures.” “I’m having the time of my life.”