Archive for the ‘John Mayer’ Tag
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
Having just seen that John Mayer presented an award at the 2010 Logie awards (one day I will attend these!) I thought it was about time I shared with you the album that began his international career.
“Welcome to the real world she said to me, condescendingly”
This is how you are welcomed to one of John Mayer’s earlier albums Room for Squares. The first line of No Such Thing shows immediate promise for things to come. The lyrics that follow it are equally captivating with “I just found out there’s no such thing as a real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above” holding the key to the song’s title. This lyric is one of my favourite Mayer lyrics. It might not be the most optimistic line, but it’s not pessimistic either. I’m a born cynic and I reckon quite a lot of Mayer’s writing comes from a place of cynicism.
Asking the rhetorical question Why Georgia, Mayer writes about doubting himself. At the time of writing, Mayer was yet to be portrayed as the so-called ‘womaniser’. I get the impression that he was still a little insecure back then. And you know what? I still think he still worries about the outcomes. It’s in his song writing where Mayer’s serious side can be seen.
You can see it in My Stupid Mouth. Written long before that Playboy interview, Mayer effectively foresaw the future. Saying silly things gets you in trouble. We all know that. But then again we all still say stupid things. We all have heard the “well anyways…” and forcefully wished for that elusive subject change only to discover it was already too late.
Women have always been a big part of Mayer’s press coverage. One such lady was fortunate enough to have Your Body is a Wonderland written about her. That lady is rumoured to be Jennifer Love Hewitt. Then again, this was who the media reported it to be about. So it quite easily could not be. Either way, it’s a rather catchy song. And he sounds sweet in it.
Neon sings of a girl buzzing in the same way that the aforementioned title does. It’s not the most buzzing song, it’s a reasonably slow song for Mayer with soft vocals of his electric guitar playing and the drum beats.
The metaphors of New York shine through at the beginning of City Love. “I never liked this apple much” plays on the cliché within it’s food related connotations. However it’s not a city that Mayer is declaring his love for, it’s a girl. (I know, who’d have thought it?!)
Next up come the two numerically titled tracks on the album. 83 sings of Mayer’s childhood whilst 3×5 uses the dimensions of a photograph to sing about the opportunities you can get if you just look at the world.
The non-specific title of Love Song For No One uses the first person perspective to carry the narrative that runs through the song. It plays on the emotions of wanting a relationship and potential missed opportunities to find the ‘one’. With the obvious locations being covered –the sandbox and the sidewalk are both prime locations to find true love apparently.
Back To You and Great Outdoors follow in due course with soft vocals combined with his outstanding guitar playing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mayer is ridiculously amazing on guitar.
Not Myself shows the softer side to Mayer’s vocals. He evens sings of being on his “best behaviour”. Whatever his best behaviour is, the media never seem to focus on it. John Mayer’s music deserves good press, yet he regularly features in the tabloids/gossip magazines for less desirable non-music related activities. These activities normally include those females that enter Mayer’s life.
The final track, St Patricks Day, manages to take the listener on a complete journey through a year. A year of a relationship perhaps. For me it simply emotes how much things can change in a year. Once again I sense some vulnerability in the song writing with lines such as “No one wants to be alone at Christmas time” suggesting that personal experience could have been used as inspiration. Then again, Mayer is a very creative songwriter so it could simply be fiction.
Room For Squares was the first Mayer album I ever listened to. Now I proudly own 79 tracks of Mayer’s and am grateful for ever being introduced to this album as it opened a door to discovering a truly incredible musician.
Before I even start this review I need to point out that this is about John Mayer as a musician. To me that’s the guy he’s always been. I don’t care about his interviews in Playboy, his manic lovelife or his portrayal in the media. I care about his music. So that is what I shall write about.
“Who says I can’t get stoned?” Those are the words that you become immersed into repeating after listening to Mayer’s latest single Who Says. The ‘stoner’ song which leads you to answer “I’m pretty sure the law does”, has lead to the media questioning his desire to be controversial. His reply? That if he’d have wanted to be controversial, there’s so much more he could have said. That’s very true, but going around declaring your use of recreational drugs is hardly the most PC route you could go down.
Moving on from the drugged up first single, Battle Studies is a standard John Mayer album. Opening with the relationship reminiscent Heartbreak Warfare, it’s clear that Mayer has chosen to stick to what he knows best with this release. He knows what his audience likes and has opted not to push any boundaries musically, aside from the aforementioned. This could leave some fans left a little disappointed with the lack of a new sound, but for others, myself included, he’s struck gold with what he knows best. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s not immediately one stand out track. There’s no Belief as there was in Continuum. Nor will you hear the thought-provoking chorus of Daughters. However the songs that you are greeted with, are all pleasant enough to make this record another hit.
On it’s release day, Battle Studies was a trending topic on Twitter. Whilst this might not be something that all artists aspire to, Mayer’s fondness of the service (@johncmayer) probably resulted in him being rather happy with this fact. In fact, Half of My Heart sees Mayer join forces with his fellow tweeter Taylor Swift providing some sweet vocals. Lyrically, the song talks of the complexity of a character who appears to have many conflicting emotions that don’t sound too far away from the life story of Mayer.
Guitarist primarily, singer second. This is something that can be said of Mayer – particularly at live performances. And he does not disappoint with his riffs; particularly on his version of Robert Johnson’s Crossroads and on the closing track Friends, Lovers Or Nothing. One riff that did sound rather familiar was that of Edge Of Desire, which sounded incredibly similar to one found in Come Back To Bed from years past. I’m no expert on guitars or the sounds that they produce, but as someone who’s appreciated a lot of Mayer’s work over the years, it did seem to me that they carried a similar tune at certain stages.
Whilst he still doesn’t appear to be mentioning his on/off relationship that he shared with Jennifer Anniston last year, several tracks speak of failed loves. In fact, the over-exaggerated metaphor found in Heartbreak Warfare “Clouds of sulphur in the air/bombs are falling everywhere/it’s heartbreak warfare” suggest that he might put more feelings into his relationships than the media makes out. Although the over dramatic war references perhaps aren’t quite apt for a what is ultimately a break up song.
Do You Know Me? poses the question of whether anyone does really know Mayer beneath his portrayed persona in the tabloids. Ultimately no, we don’t. However I know enough to say that you could have probably made a slightly better album. Enough said.