“If you happen to be walking through, you’ve got no choice but to hear it!”: John Mayer confirms he's using tube amps at Dead & Company's Sphere concerts – but their location has caught everyone off guard

John Mayer performs onstage
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

John Mayer and Dead & Company’s Las Vegas residency at The Sphere is well underway, and it’s been the subject of much gear-snooping speculation. 

Having turned heads by playing what Joe Bonamassa revealed to be Jeff Beck’s 2014 Custom Shop Stratocaster, Mayer’s now responded to speculation that he’d ditched tube amps for a digital modeler, rumors that have been fueled by the fact that no amps have been spotted on stage.  

But while tube amps are still a key part of his live rig, alongside his beloved PRS Silver Sky and a carefully assembled pedalboard, their placement has proven somewhat unorthodox. 

For Dead & Company’s tour dates last year, Mayer hid his collection of vintage Fender and Dumble guitar amps behind a velvet curtain. He’s now gone one step further and removed them from the stage altogether – fueling the modeler speculation. 

A number of big-name acts, from Metallica to The Edge, have made the switch to modelers in recent years, so it’s understandable that gear-obsessed fans saw a lack of amps on The Sphere’s stage and made the assumption. But Mayer has confirmed the contrary on Instagram. 

His amps, it turns out, are stored in wooden shipping crates and hidden backstage amongst a forest of flight cases and cardboard boxes in the venue’s loading area – and mic’ed up there. 

“If you happen to be walking through,” he says, “you’ve got no choice but to hear it!”

The decision begs the obvious question of ‘why?’ Some have theorized that it’s Mayer’s workaround for The Sphere’s sonic quirks. 

Indeed, questions have justifiably been asked about how a spherical venue can get a great sound. The venue’s answer, it seems, is to minimize the on-stage volume levels, allowing the front of house to dial in a far better mix. 

That's led Mayer to moving his amps well away from the stage, feeding their mic'ed sound to the desk from their hiding place. 

Of course, a digital modeler would be an obvious solution here, but Mayer’s love for the charm of vintage tube amps remains unwavering. 

So, hidden away backstage in boxes to dampen their sound beyond the reach of the mics, he can push the amps to their fullest – where tube amps are at their best – without ruffling any feathers. 

You can find details on all upcoming The Sphere shows on Dead & Company’s website

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.