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John Mayer improvises after drummer gets COVID-19, taps Questlove to fill in at Madison Square Garden

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Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

The second of two shows John Mayer was to have played at New York’s Madison Square Garden hit an unexpected bump on Monday when his drummer, Steve Ferrone, tested positive for COVID-19. But the show went on, in a different format — or, as John described it, as “a very special presentation.

The concert Monday night featured John performing acoustically with the band, minus Ferrone.  Then, for the last five songs plus the encore, Roots and Tonight Show drummer Questlove made a surprise appearance and filled in on the drum kit. Questlove and John have been friends since 2003, when the former played on John’s song, “Clarity.”

On Instagram, Questlove posted about how it all happened, writing that he was eager to go see John’s concert, because Steve Ferrone is his drumming idol, having played with everyone from Tom Petty, Duran Duran and Eric Clapton, to Rick James, Chaka Khan and Aerosmith.

“I got out my show clothes all [excited] & then I checked my phone: ‘Ferrone got covid, can you sit in?’” Questlove wrote. “Truth be told I coulda played the whole show…I was anxious, amped, timorous, excited, scared & hyped!!  Gotta say once onstage it was gravy.”

John wrote in the comments, “What you did was unforgettable and brilliant. Thank you for saving the day.”

John also wrote on Instagram, “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….Most importantly, I thank everyone in attendance whose enthusiasm and energy in the face of some disappointing news lifted us all to something far greater than I could have ever expected.”

John noted that the next few stops on the tour will feature the same acoustic format, minus Questlove.

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