Last year was so crammed full of experiences and emotions that I actually needed a theme song...something to put it all into perspective and make me feel understood every day.
Every day..."Every Day I Have the Blues." That was the song. It so happened that all of my losses concurred with the emergence of the John Mayer Trio as a touring unit. I had seen my mother die, literally. I had presided over the dismantling of my childhood home and placed countless mundane objects in my own house like talismans. Had spoken with everyone Mom loved, all her friends, many of whom had never even known she was sick. Their older-familiar voices made those conversations even more poignant. By June 2005, every nerve ending in my body was frayed.
And so, bruised and saddened, I pounced on the JM3 ticket presales like a tiger uncaged. I scored every show ticket I wanted. And I plotted a four-day woohoooo road trip with my dear friends Lobsta and Rappa.
When the JM3 tour finally rolled up its carpets, I had seen them six times. Five out of those six times, I'd waited for hours in line to be as close to the stage as possible. To say this was wish fulfillment is an understatement--along with the Trio, I have an arms-long list of other bands for whom I gladly would have done this in the past. So JM3 stood in for many thwarted years when I could never have gone off on a toot like this.
Seeing the same rock artist for many days straight is a gush of Almost Famous ennui, combined with I'm-with-the-band hubris. Hotel after hotel after hotel, city upon city upon city, you start to understand the bizarre otherworldliness of being in a touring band. Nothing's rooted. Nothing matters, and what if it did? Except for the stage and everything that happens there. That's it, distilled. The rest is restlessness.
Every Trio show began the same way. John Mayer, usually in a lush velvet jacket and grungy jeans, standing with his back to the audience in front of Steve Jordan's drum kit. No music...just the restless gray roar of a waiting crowd. If you were close enough, you could see that on the darkened stage, Mayer was moving his hips, ever so slightly, to the beat in his head that he was about to explode into. This moment became one of the greatest examples of antici-SAY IT-pation I've ever experienced.
Then--jolt--the song would begin with a hammering blast of two chords, over and over, insistently. Standing in the crowd, a few feet away, the pounding driving beat put shape to my pain. Then Mayer would step up to the mic, breathy and raw at the same time: "Every daaay, every day I have the blues." Oh yes, I'd think, head banging to the beat, I do. You know it. Each night that song plunged me into a blue pool of all my sadness and dire memories, then it pulled me out.
The JM3 arrangement of "Every Day I Have the Blues" moved a traditional blues number onto a different shelf where Pearl Jam and Stevie Ray reside. Ragged around the edges, dissonant, yet with solos slicing sharp and keen. I reveled in that song every time I heard it, that's all I know. And at the last gig in New York, I believed the song's power would fade, because its work here was done.
I was totally wrong about that. The John Mayer Trio just played a gig in Tempe, Arizona...the final spin of the Trio carousel, as it were. Henceforth, Pino Palladino will melt into the Who, Steve Jordan will kick Eric Clapton's rhythm section into the sky, and John Mayer will reassemble himself into John Mayer, solo. As if to announce the new day--and, for me, as if to close the book on a cataclysmic year--the Trio debuted a new arrangement of their signature opening number in Tempe. When I first read about this revision, I sighed, assuming the song would have been denuded, and in the process, made irrelevant to me. Last night my friend Allie linked me to a youtube video of the "Every Day" performance, and I clicked it with a skeptical flinch.
Ah...but instead, the Trio shook out the wrinkles, funked up the backbeat, scrambled the jigsaw, and Mayer rammed in more notes than I ever thought the song could hold. Contrary to its title, "Every Day I Have the Blues" has become an assertion of sinewy joy. A statement: this is why this band exists, to sound just like this. To live.
I needed a new theme song, evidently, and there it is. "Every Day I Have the Blues," and they will not conquer me.