Checking Twitter at 8am has its perks.
After learning months ago that one of my favorite artists, John Mayer, would be playing the Ben Franklin Parkway for Philadelphia’s Fourth of July festivities, my ears were especially perked up in recent days, excited to see him document his stay in Philly on Twitter. But I wasn’t expecting to see a tweet from @JohnMayer on Tuesday morning reading, “A few lucky fans will be chosen to watch the @SIRIUSXM Rehearsal tonight @ the Liacouras Center @ @TempleUniv.”
After doing a double-take, I quickly hit the link and entered both myself and my sister for the first-come, first-served passes. JM in my hometown in my favorite building in my neighborhood at my alma mater? It was too good to be true.
But after hours of stalking my Gmail, I got a text from Meghan saying we had won two passes for that evening. I couldn’t believe it. After meeting back at the house, we drove down to school, parked near her apartment, and ran to the Liacouras Center in an utter downpour. Though soaking wet, we were posing with posters, tweeting and Instagramming , and lining up with our lanyards as the excitement built. With only 500 winners and 1,000 passes handed out, it was going to be a small and intimate show, the most perfect way I could imagine hearing JM play.
When the doors opened, we ran to the stage, and snagged front row spots. I was in awe, staring up at the plain, black stage. I’d started my Temple career in this very building, seen incredible basketball games in this very building, incredible concerts in this very building, incredible ceremonies in this very building. And I was about to see John Mayer take the stage in that same building.
Hosted by Sirius XM, the final dress rehearsal before the kickoff to the Born and Raised tour was being broadcast live on television and on the radio. I had no idea what a rock star’s “dress rehearsal” would entail, but with half the set old classics and half new jams being played live for the first time, I couldn’t be disappointed.
Mayer’s the type of artist who sounds even better live, and so his live album, Where the Light Is, remains one of my favorites of all-time. But after multiple vocal surgeries three years ago that could have ended his music career, the show in Philly was a fresh start, the last rehearsal before the Born and Raised tour, but, ultimately, a test of Mayer’s return. But he allayed all fears by telling the audience halfway through his set, “Don’t worry about me, Philly. I’m gonna be fine.” And fine he was. Mayer’s set was a work of art, and he sounded better live, in-person, than I’ve ever heard him before. I’ve heard him compared to legendary guitarists like Jimi Hendrix before, but watching it myself, I’d never believed so wholeheartedly that was the truth.
While my only selfish complaint was that Mayer played a safe, hour-long set, looking up while he jammed on the guitar and seeing that Temple ‘][‘ above his head isn’t something I’ll soon forget. That will certainly remain one of my favorite memories in the Liacouras Center. I’ve listened to John Mayer for as long as I can remember, and I was in awe watching him at work mere feet in front of me.
The headline the next morning in the Inquirer read “John Mayer Rocks North Philly” and it’s the night I’ll always think of whenever I start rocking out to JM on my iPod. Hopefully, it won’t be much longer until I see him live again, and with a tour stop in Atlanta on September 27th, hopefully I’ll meet you there, John.
The official JM tour hashtag is a genius #MAYERisBACK, and truly, after hearing him play myself, I can confirm those three words do the trick. Mayer most certainly is back.