Questlove steps in to save John Mayer’s gig after Steve Ferrone contracts covid

John Mayer has a habit of enlisting some of the grooviest drummers on the planet in his band - Steve Jordan, Keith Carlock, and most recently Steve Ferrone - amongst a few. But Mayer can now add walking beat encyclopaedia and The Roots drummer, Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson to that list, after he stepped in at short notice to make sure Mayer’s gig at Madison Square Garden went ahead.

As far as dep-gigs go, they don’t come much bigger than MSG, with Questlove reportedly stepping-up with an hour’s notice to fill-in for one of his drumming idols. Mayer was forced to take a diversion for the second night of his two dates at the Garden after Ferrone and vocalist Carlos Ricketts both contracted covid. 

Performing an unplugged set alongside the remainder of his band, Mayer ran-through Neon, In Your Atmoshphere, Daughters, his fan-favourite cover of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ as well as Sob Rock lead-single, Last Train Home, before welcoming Questlove to the stage.

Playing Ferrone’s Gretsch Broadkaster kit, and bolstered by bass legend/former Soulquarians and D’Angelo collaborator, Pino Palladino - himself no stranger to last-minute gigs - Questlove sat-in with unflappable confidence, playing Mayer’s hits, Vultures, Clarity and Something Like Olivia. 

Mayer guitarist, David Ryan Harris took to the mic for a snippet of Prince's The Beautiful Ones before the band brought the gig to a close with Slow Dancing in a Burning Room. They returned for an encore of Mayer’s slow-blues classic, Gravity. 

After the performance both Mayer and Questlove took to social media to share their thoughts. Questlove - who was due to be watching the gig as a fan -  revealed that it was the third time watching Steve Ferrone play live had eluded him.   

“I thought I was hangin with the crew tonight. The plan was seeing a kick ass band at [the Garden] …I got out of my [Fallon show] clothes all exited & then checked my phone: “Ferrone got Covid, can you sit in?”

He went on to reference John Mayer’s performance at The Roots Picnic in 2016, where the guitarist and Pino Palladino were joined by The Roots for a set, and later appeared again alongside neo-soul pioneer. 

Mayer, who has since contracted Covid himself, added, “My boundless appreciation goes out to the legendary Questlove, who stepped in on an hour’s notice to help end the show on such a powerful and definitive note.

"The brilliant musicians in this band stepped up in ways that I will never forget, and will bond us forever.”

John Mayer’s  concerts at the Pittsburgh, PA PPG Paints Arena, New York’s Belmont Park UBS Arena and Boston, MA TD Garden Arena have now been moved to May 5, 7, 9 and 10 respectively.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.