Home / Music CD/DVD Review: John Mayer – Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles

Music CD/DVD Review: John Mayer – Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles

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Lately the man garners more press for his private life than for his professional one, but John Mayer would be the first to concede that music remains his greatest passion. On his latest release, Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles, which comes in both CD and DVD formats, he delivers a solid performance that works far better as an album than it does as a film.

Recorded at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on December 8, 2007, the 22-song concert is divided into three segments: an acoustic set, followed by a John Mayer Trio performance, and culminating with Mayer playing alongside his regular touring band.

He melds this assortment of sounds, songs, and styles into an inspired, cohesive show overall. In the acoustic portion, his six-string dexterity emanates through on “Neon,” “Daughter,” and the rarely played “In Your Atmosphere.” As well, he offers a peaceful, easygoing take on Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” that's hard not to like.

When Mayer suits up – literally and figuratively – with his Trio (rounded out by drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Pino Palladino), he summons the show’s most spirited, ambitious moments. Laying down a heavy dose of electric blues, he leads the band through originals like “Good Love Is On The Way” and “Who Did You Think I Was” while a selection of covers, including B.B. King’s “Every Day I Have The Blues” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Wait Until Tomorrow,” are played with palpable reverence toward the form.

Though not as musically invigorating as his time with the Trio, Mayer nevertheless shines – especially on the guitar – when his touring band joins him for the concert’s final set. He plays in fine form on “Waiting On The World To Change,” “Why Georgia,” and a nine-minute, slow-burning version of “Gravity” that just about makes your jaw drop.

Mayer’s performance is laudable by and large, but it doesn’t translate well in the way it's rendered on film. The presentation has a made-for-TV feel to it, coming off as excessively produced and bereft of the spontaneity that a live music document should convey. Adding to the visual artifice, the camera focuses more on Mayer’s lyric teleprompter and of other cameras around the stage rather than on the audience. Quite simply, it doesn’t capture the spirit of a genuine concert.

Between the three concert segments, Mayer provides commentary whilst driving around town (presumably Los Angeles). Given the fragmented nature of the performances, the footage serves as viable (and often humorous) transitions, but unfortunately it breaks the continuity within some of the sets as well.

In the most conspicuous and unnecessary instance, as the Trio wrap up “Vultures” and prepare to lay into “Bold As Love,” the scene cuts to Mayer, back behind the wheel, talking to someone off camera about a paparazzi photographer who is snapping his photo from a nearby car. Ostensibly a thematic intercut, the film switches back to show Mayer relating to the audience how such incidents “muddle” the “message” that he wants to express with his music. (Note to Mayer: You know what else muddles your message? Acknowledging such ridiculousness in the middle of your gig and then including said acknowledgement in your concert film.)

So while the DVD doesn’t offer much intrinsic merit (even ardent fans won’t feel compelled to watch more than once), the CD version of Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles is where John Mayer best demonstrates the breadth of his musicianship.

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Marr, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Rickie Lee Jones, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.
  • Thanks for the heads up Donald. That whole business of inserting whimisical “bits” into a concert film is one I just find really irritating. This goes back as far as Zeppelin’s “Song Remains The Same” for me, with those god-awful “fantasy sequences.” Just give me the band playing the fricking music already. Yeah, I think I’ll be skipping the DVD…


  • amhutch80

    Mayer’s fans appreciate the in between talks with Mayer. This is the only time we get to see this. If you want to hear the music only then the CD is for you. If you are a huge Mayer fan as I am, the DVD captures candid moments that are very beneficial to understanding how John feels about his life now and his thoughts about the music etc. I am glad that he did this. I do not dislike getting to know John a little better off stage.

  • Thomas Gutzke

    3 songs from other artists is too many to convince me that they’ve produced something special here. Now if at least two of the other artistS are performing with the JM band on the album, then please forgive me.


  • Lena T

    I have watched this DVD 5 times already in two days. I love the way he interacts with the band, the trio and the fans. Excellent music quality and fun to watch. Don’t believe this guy, the film is excellent.

  • J

    I agree.
    I’m a huge fan of John Mayer and this concert would have been spectacular had it been filmed better.
    I’m half way through the blu-ray and I’ve had to stop it.
    The camera is really annoying. It’s constantly panning from side to side from obscure angles rarely showing what’s going on.
    John mayer rips out an amazing solo so what are we watching ?,
    the top of Pino’s head, 2 seconds of gurning then a lingering shot of the back of Mayers jacket – this typifies the viewing experience.
    If you wish to watch a concert from the perspective of a disinterested fly this the show for you.

  • I loved it! I’m obviously either too easy to please or not good enough a critic, but the DVD was refreshing in that it didn’t have the professional fingerprints all over it. John’s Free Falling was the best I’ve heard other than maybe Tom himself, and getting to ‘follow’ him for a day or so was nothing less than just plain fun.
    This concert in blue ray…? Get it!

  • Paul Roy

    I can’t believe the disparity of opinions just from these first few comments. Although I am not the biggest Mayer fan in the world, I thought that this DVD was amazing. I don’t quit understand the negative comments about the camera work. This was easily one of the best filmed concert DVD’s of the year. I’ll take slow sweeping shots that linger over the entire stage and then capture every key solo, over the typical hyper-fast, music video style crap of most other concerts any day. Mayer’ guitar playing was amazing too – especially the blues trio stuff. I’ll be coming out with my own review soon.