John Mayer at Wembley Arena, May 27th

Having previously been amazed by John Mayer live two years ago, I was expecting a lot from him once more. Back then, I saw him twice in twenty four hours and was so shattered that I walked out of Hard Rock Calling three songs into Eric Clapton’s set. I have memories of being very excited for weeks before the show, so I was a little anxious when these feelings didn’t resurface prior to the latest saga in my John Mayer adventures at Wembley Arena.

As I entered this vast warehouse-like building, I could hear how Ellie Goulding had already started her set. Due to lengthy tube journeys and a McDonalds stop, we couldn’t quite make it there fast enough to see everything. But from what we did see, I was surprisingly impressed. Under The Sheets was accompanied by some drumming on Goulding’s part. Now, I know that I’ve never been a Goulding fanatic, but I wasn’t aware of her drumming abilities. She stood proudly on the huge stage dancing to her heart’s content and manically drumming along to the beat. Whilst I know I missed a few songs, she’d saved her biggest hit for last and so I got to see Starry Eyed in all it’s glory. I know many people dismiss Goulding’s musical ability but what I saw was a genuinely talented girl who was very deserving of the awards she won at the beginning of the year.

It was when the male figure, dressed casually in a white shirt and khaki green combats, took to the stage that the excitement I’d been lacking suddenly all came back to me. The opening chords to Why Georgia took me straight back to my first Mayer concert at Brixton Academy and his guitar playing blew me away once more. A lengthy guitar intro to his cover of Crossroads followed where the crowd were in awe.

It was after one of my favourites from Battle Studies, Heartbreak Warfare, that he really demonstrated his musical ability with Vultures. Notoriously a long track when played live, he wowed the crowd by playing guitar with a drumstick before beat boxing in the middle of the song.

Following the heartfelt Perfectly Lonely that we first got to see him talk properly, revealing that personality that the media love to report on. Did he talk racist slander? No. Was he a sexist pig? No. Did he try and hit on a crowd member? Well, yes he did. But once he discovered she was eighteen he thought better of it and simply silenced the arena so that this heartbroken girl could sing-along with him. Having somehow gotten across to him that she’d been dumped, he cheekily added a “Fuck him” to the chorus of Edge of Desire, creating laughter amongst the audience.

To introduce his next song, he linked from this discussion by saying “On day you’ll grow up to be an Assassin”. I’ll admit that it’s not one of my favourites from Battle Studies, but any song that he plays on stage has me from the first strike of the guitar. Talent oozes from him and continued to throughout In Your Atmosphere/Something’s Missing.

Talking about the venue, Mayer stated how it’s one of those arenas that people in the US have heard of, comparing it to their far bigger Madison Square Gardens. He said that Wembley isn’t just a building; it’s a concept and an idea too. Whilst I’m not really sure the “it’s an idea” thing made sense, the sentiment was definitely there and it was clear he was delighted to be playing here for his international audience.

A highlight of the evening would be when he brought Your Body Is A Wonderland out of retirement. Apparently he scarcely plays it live nowadays because of the media’s interest in its subject matter. But, as he said, it’s OK reading the slander about him on the internet when he’s sat in his big house that the song bought him. A song about his love of the female form, it was written pre-Jessica Simpson, pre-Jennifer Anniston and long before his famed Playboy interview. You can tell that it’s not his favourite song to play for fear of the media’s repercussions, but, equally, I think he was a very different person when he wrote it. His song writing is always full of emotion that I still believe is genuine. Maybe I’m a fool for believing this, but I think there’s a private side to Mayer that he only lets the public see through his lyrics. Then again, he continued with Who Says which had the audience singing ‘Who says I can’t get stoned?” reverting back to the edgy persona who the media love to hate.

Despite the large capacity of the venue, Mayer attempted to create a more personal atmosphere by taking note of any posters and flags in the audience and commenting on them. Correctly identifying the Brazilians and the Saudi Arabians, he stumbled with the Mexican flag, suggesting it might be the Italian flag before being corrected by his fans. He apologised, “lo siento”, and broke into an impressive performance of Bigger Than My Body.

Mayer appeared to be close to his band, introducing them all personally but paying particular attention to his British guitarist Robbie McIntosh who was given the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Given the opportunity to speak to around ten thousand people, he decided this was the perfect time to tell a ‘Knock Knock’ joke, opting for the well-known ‘Big Issue’ punch line. Unfunny it may have been, but the crowd warmed to his British charm and clapped nonetheless.

Three of my favourite songs followed; Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, Waiting On The World To Change and Half Of My Heart (without Taylor Swift!) all had me completely stunned by his abilities in both performing and crafting a song.  As he finished the latter, he managed to merge it into Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. Known for it’s recent revival on Glee, Mayer made the song his own and left the stage to clapping, cheers and a standing ovation from the arena. Whoever had the idea to sing the notes that Mayer had gotten us to chant during Don’t Stop Believin’ must be feeling pretty proud, as we all joined in and continued to repeat them until Mayer and his band returned to the stage. Mayer was visibly impressed and joined in with us before playing No Such Thing.

A song from near the beginning of his career, it couldn’t have been a more perfectly fitting song for me. I’d missed my leavers meal at school for this concert. My final day of Sixth Form had ended with me waving goodbye to all my friends as they left on coaches to an evening of entertainment. I’d had to miss out on all of this for the concert and so when Mayer sang the opening line “Welcome to the real world she said to me, condescendingly” it rang very close to home. Singing about wanting to go back to high school and tell everyone that the ‘real world’ is non-existent was fitting for the day itself and I was delighted for it to have been included in the setlist.

What did he choose for the final song of the night? A very, very long rendition of Gravity. A stunning song, he took it to another level with his guitar solo at the end. Playing with the guitar laid flat on the ground, Mayer proved himself to be this incredible musician who the press tend to forget about. Behind the tabloids, he is just another musician. A talented man who makes a few mistakes and gets ripped for them by the world’s media. For me though, John Mayer will always be the outstanding singer, songwriter and guitarist who, after an impressive two hour set, still left me wanting more.

John Mayer at Wembley Arena
May 27th 2010

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11 comments so far

  1. Neil Mcnally on

    I was there last night – row 6, to see an artist I have been a massive fan of now for a couple of years. I paid £80 for the ticket on ebay due to non fans snapping them up so damn quickly. After listening to Ellie and her band, with excellent drummer Joe Clegg I went straight out and brought her album “lights” today.
    Mayer was awesome and while I was expecting a variety of songs I never imagined he would pull Your Body is a wonderland, In your atmosphere and No such thing out of the bag. The only 2 songs i’m a bit dissapointed didnt get played were Neon and Belief, but what the heck, for him to play every great song he has ever made would take him over 6 hours!!! Favourite song of the night was his amazing version of Vultures, my favourite track on Battle studies. All in all a 10/10 gig – How this guy doesn’t dominate the UK charts is a travesty, considering the rubbish that does nowadays. Oh well at least I can lay proud in the knowledge I saw a living genius at work last night. Perfection

    • CS from Holland on

      I think JM is at his best with Steve Jordan (drums) and Pino Paladino (bass) on his side. Were they there?

  2. nevergiveupblog on

    John Mayer is hot, I would love to see him in concert I bet it’s amazing.

  3. douginator on

    Interesting read. Have a great day!

  4. Kim on

    Good review, glad you had a good time. I’ll admit the only Mayer song I know is 83 (and that not very well), so I don’t really have anything to go on with regards to his music, but you write about it well 🙂

  5. Stephanie on

    Excellent review! Made me feel like I was there! Nice to see some positive JM feedback! Glad you had such a great time. It really sounds like it was an amazing night. Hopefully, I’ll be seeing him again when he hits West Palm Beach, FL in September.

    Thanks for taking the time!
    Stephanie

  6. Craig on

    I was there that night too. Couldn’t agree more with the review. This was my third time seeing him and he is never anything but amazing. Would have liked to have heard ‘Neon’ but hearing ‘Your Body Is a Wonderland’ more than makes up for it. Definitly will be going next time he hits the UK. Being able to play for 2 hours without any pyros, dancers or costume changes and managing to maintain the audeinces interest throughout is a testament to how good John’s songs really are. Great show.

  7. Mark on

    Excellent review.
    Only just heard of John Mayer two weeks ago when i saw a tv prog showing the crossroads festival in the States with Eric Clapton. The version of Gravity he played that day just blew me away so I had to find out more. Found out he was playing at Wembley so got some tickets off e-bay and went this night also, was i disappointed, NO WAY. What a fantastic guitarist that man is. And I’ve seen a few in my time, I’m 49, always loved music and wow John Mayer can write music. He desrves better press and acknowledgement for his talents in this country and I’m sure if his management team wanted it they could but they seem to like him low profile. His solo at the end of the night was stuff of legends and I will never forget it for as long as I live. The only thing that really got me down was that he made playing the guitar look so damn easy and I know from my own incompitent attempts at learning that its not.

    Thanks for the review it reminded me of what a great night it was.

    Mark

  8. yamgirl on

    I was there that night. I was 6th row center and could you believe it…I didn’t have my camera charged. I did feel we locked eyes when he first came out and started singing. (I know..corny!( But I felt he looked right at me and I felt connected.

  9. Tina on

    What a gret review! Thanks for reminding me of that great moment! I traveled from Sweden, only to see his concert. And it was totally worth it! The only bad part was that I didn’t see him very well since I was standing pretty far away. You guys that was at the 6th row, how did you get those tickets? I bought mine the minute the pre-sale at JM.com started and still it was pretty far away.

  10. Lena on

    I’ve been following your reviews and they are super interesting! They have opened my mind to new artists that I never thought I’d hear about otherwise. Thanks. 🙂
    One thing, though, if you don’t mind me adding. I’m sure you’re familiar with this, but:
    it’s = it is
    its = possession (its lyrics, its presence, etc.)
    You said: “because of the media’s interest in it’s subject matter.” and “in all it’s glory” (about Goulding).
    …the media’s interest in it is subject matter? 😛 So be careful with the little mistakes. Otherwise, good job.


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