John Mayer

Any Given Thursday

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John Mayer found stardom the old-fashioned way. After building a live following in his adopted hometown of Atlanta, he took his solo acoustic act to Austin's annual South by Southwest festival, where he was signed by the Columbia subsidiary Aware, a label responsible for such college festival fare as Hootie & the Blowfish, Train, and Vertical Horizon. His second album, Room for Squares, eventually became a monster hit behind the single "No Such Thing," and Mayer expanded his live following nationwide, scoring especially big numbers with college coeds eager to trade in their Dave Matthews crushes for a younger, more charismatic model. Room for Squares was released in summer of 2001, and Mayer toured in support of it for more than a year after. The live Any Given Thursday, then, filled the gap until Mayer's proper follow-up could be recorded; it also capitalized on his tumbleweed of stardom, which was still rolling through 2003 due to a Grammy win and strong word of mouth between campuses about his live show. Any Given Thursday was recorded at Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Birmingham, AL, on September 12, 2002. In addition to Mayer's guitar and vocals, it features bassist David LaBruyere, drummer Stephen Chopek, and guitarist/keyboardist Michael Chaves. No matter how great it was when it happened, a live document always has the potential for disaster when released for public consumption. Thursday succeeds, but it does so because Mayer's music is an unthreatening mixture of college rock and wide-eyed adolescent lyricism. Like Matthews, Mayer makes music that is creatively bland. It appeals to everyone, goes great with beer, and can be played with relative ease by any college town cover band. He's handsome, and his lyrics say everything that real boyfriends never will. Live, each vocal trill and guitar flourish is greeted with Beatlesque screaming from his largely female following. Singalong moments during "Love Song for No One," "Why Georgia," and the sticky bubblegum love pop of "Your Body Is a Wonderland" prove this; during each, the "B-ham choir" (as Mayer characterizes the crowd) sounds like a thousand pretty birds harmonizing on his words. Musically, Any Given Thursday is somewhat vacant; Mayer's band lays the AAA-alternative groove on too thick at times, and his own vocal and instrumental similarity to Matthews is so striking as to be off-putting. Any Given Thursday is also broken up into two discs to emulate Mayer's set break. This is tiresome, as with a few minor edits (the free-jammy "Covered in Rain") the music would have fit comfortably onto one disc. Given the relatively similar sticker price, the accompanying DVD of the concert -- which includes backstage interviews and the like -- might be the better buy. In either format, Any Given Thursday is really for the rabid fan, since the release acts as a document of the summer that saw Mayer go from nobody to somebody in the eyes and ears of a million college kids.

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