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