LINCOLN — John Mayer's first guitar solo came less than five minutes into Friday night's concert.
Partway through “Queen of California,” he took his first journey down the fretboard during the show at Pinnacle Bank Arena. It would be the first time of at least a dozen and on the second guitar of at least seven. He ended up playing so hard that midconcert, he had to put some super-glue on his finger where he was wearing a hole in it.
That's the way Mayer played it all night. His pop songs — easy on everyone's stomach — were an excuse for him to get to the fun parts.
While Mayer played for nearly two hours Friday night, he touched on career moments such as “Half of My Heart” and “Waiting on the World to Change,” but also skipped over songs including “Daughters,” “No Such Thing” and “Your Body Is a Wonderland.”
Multiple fans — men and women — screamed “I love you” at the pop star, and they cheered when he finally said it back to them about an hour into the show.
Those guitar solos came early and often. Sometimes, Mayer traded an acoustic guitar for an electric right in the middle of a song to get to a solo. Once, he strummed an acoustic during the verses and, during the choruses, he put his hands behind him to wail on a Telecaster slung on his back.
Luckily, all those soulful solos didn't feel like the kind of mindless noodling of jam bands and hair metal groups. They felt like a necessary element, especially considering most of Mayer's music feels like the kind of stuff they'll play at shopping malls the world over sometime in the future. It's familiar without being intrusive.
Mayer has the talent to be more than just easy listening.
His show often feels like two people fighting: Mayer the guitar player and Mayer the pop singer. Guitar John likes his battle-worn, faded sunburst Fender Stratocaster and fiddling with his effects pedals to get the sound of his coming solo just right. Pop John just wants to run through the halls of his high school and doesn't trust himself with loving you.
One is sincere — even soulful — and the other is simply kinda cheesy.
Fans loved him for all of it. They sang the words to “Wildfire,” danced during the upbeat “Who Says” and waved their arms during Mayer's funky country version of Tom Petty's “You Don't Know How It Feels.”
Mayer did skip some of the hits, but it would have been hard to fit them in a packed set list of songs such as “Paper Doll” and “Dear Marie” from his new album, “Paradise Valley,” as well as “Stop This Train,” which he played solo.
Mayer finished the concert by picking up his seventh guitar — a well-played, much-≠worn black Strat — and playing a very bluesy version of “Gravity” while fans lit up the arena with their cellphone flashlights.
As most of the songs did, “Gravity” ended with the fans singing along and Mayer diving head-first into a guitar solo.
“I wanna thank y'all so much for coming out to see us tonight after so much time not being here,” Mayer said. “I hope you guys had a wonderful time tonight.”