Mayer is back! Four long winters have passed since he last toured the UK but the wait for his return ended on Monday night at the O2 Arena. It’s been a period of quantum change for the American solo artist, who retreated to his house in Montana whilst recovering from a serious throat condition that led him to lose his voice completely. But from the wilderness, appears a changed and grounded man who is “all about the music” now.
It was a typical British evening: cold, windy and wet. It was a death-ride driving through the London streets, with moronic drivers waiting at every junction. But the lights of the O2 soon replaced the rage with anticipation for what would be an evening to remember.
Opening for John Mayer was Gabrielle Aplin, who did herself no harm with a memorable set of songs from her new album ‘English Rain’. Although the arena wasn’t at full capacity at this point, there wasn’t a silent seat as she left the stage. I know for sure that she gained herself at least three new fans in me and my two brothers.
The lights that dimmed were greeted with rapturous applause and cheers as John Mayer and co walked onto the stage. The set-list kicked off with ‘Wildfire’ – the opening track to his new album ‘Paradise Valley’.
With having now, a plethora of hits in his back pocket to choose from, it was no surprise that the evening offered an eclectic range of songs from past and present. From Pop to Country, no ground was left uncovered. The highlights included songs such as ‘I Don’t Trust Myself’ and ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ from his 2006 award-winning album ‘Continuum’, and ‘Queen of California’, ‘Age Of Worry’ and ‘Something Like Olivia’ from ‘Born and Raised’. His most recent venture ‘Paradise Valley’ featured with new favourites such as ‘Dear Marie’ and ‘Paper Doll’, although there were many new tracks left off the set-list.
‘If I Ever Get Around To Living’ (another track from ‘Born and Raised’) was split into three parts, which gave the perfect platform for Mayer to showcase his guitar skills. Rolling Stone magazine have dubbed him as one of the best at his trade, and this he proved with mouth-watering solos across all three chapters, including him playing his guitar behind his back. A trick he no doubt picked up from the great Stevie Ray Vaughan.
An atmospheric backdrop was ever-changing, with animations of the American wilderness setting the scene’s as the evening progressed.
Being in amongst the VIP’s of this night, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy at the uptight characters that surrounded me. Business men all suited and booted shared the box with us, and it was clear by the obvious ignorance that they weren’t fans. They were more interested in sending emails to mistresses across town than enjoying a good show. To be expected I guess; but this was nothing other than an ‘innocent’ observation of the ungratefully privileged that attended.
In between originals, he enchanted the O2 with stripped back covers of Jackson C. Frank’s ‘Blues Run the Game’ (which was a personal highlight) and Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’. The acoustics echoed across the arena, leaving shivers down the spine that would no doubt echo through to the morning after.
Finishing the set was the golden oldie ‘Why Georgia'; a fitting end to a journey back through the past 10 years.
When the music stopped, the cries for more exploded (the pompous business men were of course taking their ‘dignified’ leave at this point). The true faithful had remained. The bashing of chairs, the clapping of hands, the stomping of feet; all in unison in an attempt to draw out a couple more songs. And lone behold, out of the darkness reappeared the grateful John Mayer and co.
Blind Faith’s ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ kicked off the encore, but it is what followed that most fans were eagerly waiting for. Saving the best until last, out-cried the iconic guitar riff to ‘Gravity’. It had been a long two-hour set, but Mayer still had plenty of riffs to show off even at this late hour. If this was to be his final goodbye to the crowd of London, he would say it through the glistening strings of a Fender Strat.
To some, this was just another corporate ‘shin-dig’. But to 18,000 strong, this was a long-awaited celebration to appreciate a music icon. Say what you want about his personal life, but let the music do the talking now. Let the haters hate; but today, tomorrow and for days to come those that attended will still feel the echoes of a man who’s playing his way into the rock’n’roll Hall of Fame.