Live Review: John Mayer – The O2, London, 11 May 2017 by Mark Wong

So to celebrate the last day of my academic studies, I decided to buy a ticket to one of John Mayer’s two UK shows at the London O2 Arena. The agonising four hour drive to the venue had me constantly worrying about whether I would miss a bit of Mayer’s set since this was the first time I was seeing him live. When I finally got seated in The O2 just shortly after 8’ o clock, a sigh of relief washed over me as supporting act Andreas Moe was still playing. To my surprise he had five minutes left of his set so in the end it worked out really well because I only had 25 minutes to wait for John Mayer!

Live Review: John Mayer – The O2, London, 11 May 2017

The lights dim down and the screen projects the name of Mayer’s current album “The Search for Everything” which is then followed by the names of his supporting personnel who will be joining him on stage. On this tour Mayer’s set is divided into five different chapters which starts with “Chapter 1: Full Band”. He opens with the U2 inspired Heartbreak Warfare. Its only a minute into his set yet I’m already in awe of how much skill Mayer has under his belt as a guitar player. He effortlessly recreates the spacey soundscapes of Heartbreak Warfare by simultaneously playing the notes and sliding his hand against the whammy bar of his guitar.

A staple of John Mayer’s concerts is that he and his musicians jam out A LOT at the end of songs. Folk number Queen of California shows the organic chemistry he and his musicians have by being able to improvise for an additional five minutes. Throughout the evening, the vibrant colours of his stage set change to reflect the mood of his songs. For the acoustic set Mayer played against a beautiful backdrop which consisted of Japanese imagery such as temples, mountains and cherry blossom flowers. Two sound technicians even brought out a miniature Japanese bridge on stage to contribute to the authenticity of the set!

A personal highlight for me was In Your Atmosphere. Mayer has never released this song since it was an exclusive track on his live DVD: Where the Light Is. As he’s been changing up the set list every single night of this tour, it was one of the songs that I was dying to hear because of how rarely he plays it.

A gorgeous rendition of Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’

However the set turns it up a notch when Mayer plays his gorgeous rendition of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’. The cover has become a crucial addition to Mayer’s career because of his rather original take on the song. While the same personnel wasn’t there to play on it, Mayer & guitarist David Ryan Harris did an excellent job in recapturing the magic as during the bridge, 20,000 London gig goers were repetitively singing “Now I’m free fallin’” in unison.

In 2005 Mayer played in a trio with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan where the style of music was dedicated to blues music. A short video was played where the members were discussing why they originally formed and decided to put the John Mayer Trio back on the road after a staggering ten years. Breezing their way through songs such as the funky Vultures and heavy blues number Who Did You Think I Was the band display how rhythmically tight they are as a unit. Palladino dons a leather trench coat and black sunglasses looking every inch the most badass rock star you’ll ever see at any live gig.

Mayer retreats back to his full band set up in which he spoils the audience with a deep cut from his 2001 debut album Room For Squares; Why Georgia. He also gives some advice to aspiring musicians on how a song is written. He uses a strange analogy of how a basketball player tries to perfect their skills during their career. Gravity gives Mayer’s backing vocalists an opportunity to really shine. Hearing the soothing organs that were bolstered by vocalist Tiffany Palmer’s ridiculous vocal range made me feel like I was part of a church congregation watching a gospel choir perform. The evening ends with an epilogue as Mayer sits down at a piano playing the mellow You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me. This brings everything to a nice close.

This was my first time seeing John Mayer. I feel like it was the appropriate time to experience his live show as he reintroduced a lot of aspects that had been absent from his previous tours, such as the blues trio. Treating the audience to a fair and diverse range of songs to indulge in gave me an insight into how compatible Mayer’s music is with the acoustic, blues, funk and soul genres.

FULL SETLIST:

(Full Band)
Heartbreak Warfare
Moving On And Getting Over
Rosie
Who Says
Queen Of California

(Acoustic)
Emoji Of A Wave
In Your Atmosphere
Daughters W/ Robbie McIntosh
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty Cover)

(John Mayer Trio)
Bright Lights Big City (Jimmy Reed Cover)
Vultures
Who Did You Think I Was

(Full Band)
Helpless
In The Blood
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room
If I Ever Get Around To Living
Why Georgia

(Encore)
Gravity
You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me