In a show that ranks among the top five performances I’ve ever seen at Canopy Club, David Mayfield and the three band mates that make up the rest of his Parade dazzled and amazed in a performance Saturday evening that was equal parts sweet country love and total buffoonery. There was drama, comedy, a dance-off, and yes indeed, by the end of the night there was waist-up Mayfield nudity.
This was my third DMP outing. I first saw him play a middle-of-the-night set at Bonnaroo a few years ago and then again this past winter opening for the Avett Brothers in Bloomington. But Saturday night it was Mayfield vs. a too small front-room audience at the Canopy. And he took advantage of us, er, it. The performance felt immediate, raw, and absolutely hilarious.
Over the course of about an hour, Mayfield and his band played a good portion of their debut record. Tunes like “Looking For Love,” “What do you Call It?” and “I Have Been Known to Be Wrong From Time to Time (But I’m Afraid I’m Right)” sound great live, but they are also almost completely transformed from what’s on the album. Instead of slow-and-easy crooners, the tunes become a vehicle for a performance that does what every live show should: showcase the broad talents of a musician willing to do pretty much anything it takes to win an audience over. This, folks, is the opposite of phoning it in.
Getting a fix on the sum and substance of Mayfield, then, is trickier than you might think. He leads with the silly, a kind of earnest, this-is-the-real-me kind of silliness that comedians like Zach Galifianakis make a living on. This positions him as a pathetic sweetheart of sorts and is his first move toward endearing the audience to him.
Then come the vaudeville-style one-liners. They are relentless in their cheesiness: “I’m now going to play a medley of our hit.” But there’s also out-right physical comedy. Mayfield spent a decent amount of time off stage and on the floor: somersaulting, writhing on the ground, and posing for sexy pictures. I took a few.
Pit that part of the show against the actual music being performed. For as much laughter as there was in the room on Saturday night — and it was downright uproarious at times — Mayfield’s talent as a musician and songwriter is unmistakable. He may be making a joke out of the fact that he’s playing a solo with lightning-quick scales and honky-tonk pulls, but he’s nailing them. It’s almost as if all the noodling around is a way of laying down a layer of humility so that when the musical talent comes out, it doesn’t feel like a brag.
Mayfield’s already taken off his coat and laid it over the big mud puddle. From there, he can play a song like “Breath of Love” off the P.A. (which he did) and it packs an even bigger emotional punch than it might have if he’d just been playing it straight all night.
Now that a few days have passed and given me great respect for the careful way in which David wooed me and then won my love over, it seems almost wrong to share this final memento, collected as the show came to a close. The band had just played an uproarious version of the old country standard “Rye Whiskey.” Guitars were thrown, audience members called out for not singing along, and suddenly Mayfield was running through the audience and climbing onto the Canopy Club bar. It was then that I took this, a treasure I’ll keep in my pocket for months to come.