John Mayer has moved on from mishandled interviews, vocal cord surgeries, and Taylor Swift.

Elisabeth Dillon

John Mayer is misunderstood by almost everyone.

But that wasn’t an issue at the Frank Erwin Center on Friday night. 

After a long stint away, Mayer has finally gotten back into music. The singer was laid back, wearing ranchers’ jeans, and sang in front of simple projected animation of the Montana outdoor landscape. Nothing mattered but the music.

It was easy to picture Mayer around a bonfire in Montana — his new refuge and place of residence after a tumultuous stretch of mishandled interviews, soured relationships and vocal cord surgeries.

And that’s how the crowd wanted to picture Mayer: not as a celebrity hosting extravagant parties on yachts or spilling intimate details about former lovers. No, the crowd believes in the “new” Mayer who says he is committed to making a lot of music in his future.

Mayer played what he felt like playing, and didn’t bother to focus too much on the songs of his past three albums. The concert was a celebration of sorts. A very mellow celebration.

As Mayer started “Why Georgia,” the single from his first album in 2001, the man next to me smiled widely and said Mayer was going “old-school.” Indeed, he was.

Mayer’s voice riled up the fans. He crooned “You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down,” and couples waltzed on the main floor, beer cups in their free hands. 

Compared to his Battle Studies tour, the show Friday night didn’t feel as contrived as the days of Mayer’s past. It felt like Mayer was giving the audience everything he had. As he sung “Who Says,” the anthem of freedom for hipsters everywhere, it became clear just how much freer Mayer feels now.

He certainly catered to the crowd’s desires. His solo acoustic set in the middle of the show featured a blissful rendition of 2006’s “Stop This Train” and even some serious whistling. He segued into a version of “Your Body is a Wonderland” that made things even hotter. I felt uncomfortable watching all the people making out around me. The people in the crowd forgot themselves, swaying their bodies and closing their eyes to throwback to one of Mayer’s most pop-y songs.

The last solo song of the night was “Neon,” and Mayer showed off his handiwork. People kept dancing, and everyone secretly hoped Katy Perry would join the stage to dance with her beau. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

But the show wasn’t over.

Mayer’s band returned to help him on a revved up version of “Half of My Heart,” a song originally featuring Taylor Swift — one of Mayer’s past love interests. The version of the song Mayer sang Friday was exponentially better than the recorded version. Obviously, Mayer is way better off without a whiny queen of country in his life.

The one low point of the night came when Mayer played “Age of Worry.” The crowd  was much older than the teenagers Mayer was trying to make feel better about Instagram and bullying, and the tried connection failed. The background behind Mayer also changed for this song to include lyrics, supposedly to really hammer home the message to just be yourself. It was a bit overwrought, even for Mayer’s standards.

The chill waves returned, though, with “Waiting on the World To Change," and he sailed on them the rest of the evening. He only performed one song for the encore, an extended version of his Grammy-winning “Gravity.” As he sung “just keep me where the light is,” the audience did just that. They held up their phones, with camera flashlights turned on, and waved them to simulate lighters.

It was beautiful. John was beautiful.

The crowd not only kept up with Mayer, they understood him. Keeping him from falling down or going into the dark, the audience at the Erwin Center was a group of fans looking out for John Mayer — both the musician and the man.

Toward the end of the show Mayer acknowledged the set list, saying, “There’s a lot of songs I’ve written in my life and only two hours to play them in, and I hope I satisfied you one way or another.”

He sure did.