So there I was nursing my £10 gin and tonic (ice not an option) in an executive suite at the Greenwich 02, pondering the mysteries of how 20,000 people can go crazy over a perfunctory blast of John Mayer’s harmonica and yet totally miss the emotive high of a sublime guitar solo.
And then it occurred to me that when you are faced with the equivalent of an airport hanger for your musical entertainment, the thing to do is follow everyone else and go crazy at periodic intervals, particularly when the visual bombardment and the sheer enormity of everything get too much.
At first I thought it was me being out of step with modernity, but no, there’s a priceless moment when Mayer straps on an acoustic, strums a few opening chords and the crowd goes absolutely crazy, before he later tells us it’s a new song!
So I guess there’s an element of ‘I’ve paid my money and I’m going to have a good time’. It makes for a strange atmosphere at times, when 15 seconds of post-song hysteria gives way to complete silence. This is counter balanced by a slick production that cleverly mirrors the changing musical section of a show that is presented over 5 musical ‘chapters’ and an encore, to showcase the full range of Mayer’s musical oeuvre.
He’s a songwriter of substance, a soulful singer with a husky voice who effortlessly slips into falsetto and a guitarist with a superb tone. Sometimes he attacks the mic like a featherweight, taking two steps back and then 2 dance steps forward to deliver his vocals and play a range solos on electric, 6 string and acoustic guitars.
He opens with ‘Waiting On the World’ and quickly finds his equilibrium on the plaintive ‘Changing’.
The afore mentioned harmonica moment comes on the acoustic ‘Whisky Whisky Whisky’, which is both lyrically and emotionally strong, and he’s technically dazzling on ‘Neon’ on which he bass slaps on an acoustic.
The highlight of the night comes with the trio format of Mayer, drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Pino Palladino, complete with a video interview preamble.
And after a lumbering ‘Crossroads’, he hits the heights on the drum tight ‘Good Love Is On The Way’. The exhilarating trio interplay makes you realize that that aside from his lyrics, the closest we’ll get to anything resembling personality tonight is in his chops.
The peerless funky groove of ‘Vulture’ also nuances his soulful style, as he adds a smoky vocal that effortlessly moves into falsetto.
He may struggle to say anything memorable on the song intro’s, but reserves the right to do his talking through his guitar playing and voicing his most memorable songs. Both ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ and the anthemic ‘Dear Marie’ are real works of art.
John Mayer is essentially the template for the modern age, a multi faceted rock star who is probably more at home in an arena than he ever would be in a club, which I guess is where we came in.
Review By Pete Feenstra
Photo: Nicola Walsh
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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Power Plays w/c 11 September
JASPER SLOAN YIP The Day Passed And The Sun Went Down (Afterlife Music/Membran)
THE HARPOONIST & THE AXE MURDERER Get Ready (Tonic Records)
TWISTER 64 White Lies (indie)
LOVER Fallen Famous (indie)
WAYWARD SONS I Don’t Wanna Go (Frontiers)
OTIS Blind Hawg (Cleopatra Records)
THE BRONSONS Girl From Outer Space (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 11 September (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 MIDNITE CITY Midnite City (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 WAYWARD SONS Ghosts Of Yet To Come (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 THE DEADLY WINTERS Ravynstoun (indie)
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