Those two words.
Those 9 letters.
They can send shivers down the spine of any female and guitar lovers alike. So when I was told that I would be seeing him live in concert, my reaction was of course, much of the same. How does one describe an intimate chapel gig with Mr Mayer and just over 200 others? I’ll do my best…
Upon arriving at the gorgeous Paddington Uniting Church in Oxford Street I was overwhelmed with excitement of knowing I was so close to seeing one of the most talented performers of our generation. Everything was drenched in KIA sponsorship, including my oh-so exclusive laminated VIP lanyard.
Being a Channel 7 and Channel V sponsored event, there were many dazzling celebrities milling around the red carpet including Kirk Pengilly of INXS, Layne Beachley, the odd Home and Away star and some finalists of a certain reality singing show who will remain nameless and ignored.
A certain amount of standing around ensued once we were behind the velvet rope (I’ve made it in the world now), but there were delicious spinach and cheese canapés and an assortment of beverages to keep the wolf from the door. I took a moment to look at all the glamourous people around me and wondered if many of them were as big a fan John Mayer as I was? Or whether they were just here to schmooze and booze? The sound of hob-nobbing and shoulder rubbing mingled with the broken repetitive melodies from the sound check going on inside the chapel. The excitement grew.
The time came to pass through the doors into the beautifully transformed church insides. Fairy lights, coloured lights and a huge projection screen juxtaposed with the sandstone bricks and the intricately detailed stained glass windows provided a very special ambience, only fitting for what would be a very special performance. As the event was being recorded for both web and television, we all took a moment to apparently not listen to the “no flash photography” speech and be warmed up (like we needed to, it was about 100 degrees in there as it was), and it was time to begin.
John’s eight piece band stepped onto the stage primarily, then with a huge cheer from the crowd arrived Mr John Mayer himself, donned in what I comically thought was a black skivvy, but turned out to be just a hooded tshirt. Still cool, but come on, if the Wiggles can rock them, surely John Mayer could!
They started with a song from the new album Battle Studies (available November 13th) called “Heartbreak” giving the crowd a taste of what will soon be undoubtedly pulsing through their iPods. The room seemed to become even warmer, not just from the humid November weather. “Vultures” came next, a favourite from the John Mayer Trio album “Try!” (2005), also re recorded for the album “Continuum” (2006). The crowd became a choir when he let us sing parts of the song, his gravelly voice sounding as sweet as ever. Thirdly on the setlist, another new song “Half My Heart”. A song about not being able to love someone wholly, as the title suggests. “No doubt that’s about Jennifer Aniston” I heard a few ignorant folk mutter. Noobs, clearly.
Following seamlessly after came “Crossroads”, a heavy, dirty, bluesey cover supremely utilizing the John Mayer Trio sound. I half expected items of clothing to be removed, and needless to say was less than impressed when that didn’t occur.
After a shaky start to “Perfectly Lonely” (another newbie, yet a crowd pleaser), Mr Mayer apologized for the mistake and explained that this was the first time that he and the band have being playing these songs live. “That wasn’t a technical difficulty or anything, I just fucked up”. Musically gifted AND hilarious. Stellar combo. The guitar solos were flawless and polished, the progress and the long way he has come as a guitarist since the “Inside Wants Out” days is undeniable. The newer songs seem to be less heavy than those of the Continuum album. A little more positive, a little more grown up and wise, reflective of relationships past.
Sorry, he just looked right at me and smiled. Sigh.
Switching to an acoustic guitar next, (he’d been changing electric guitars for each song), the crowd knew what musical delight was to follow. “Who Says” the first single released from Battle Studies seems to focus on a little “John Time”. About making time for yourself and your own choices in life. And instead of “It’s been a long night in Austin too,” John threw Sydney into the lyric to resounding squeals from the giddy audience. It was as if the gig had become a camp out, circled around the fire whilst John played the camp fire songs.
“Waiting On The World To Change”, the first single from on the Continuum album, had the crowd in a frenzy, even though it was released just over 3 years ago. We became a choir again, John concluding the song crouched on the stage with one of his famous swoon-inducing, mouth-spasming solos we all know and love. “I bent down like I was 25, got up like I was not 25, ergh”.
The slow, ¾ drum beat of “Gravity” began, and as if in a trance, the crowd slipped into a slow sway in time with the music. No one cheered or whistled, as the opening guitar licks of the song hypnotized us all into awed calm. Another favourite from the Try!/Continuum albums, “Gravity” is always a crowd pleaser, because of its relaxing tempo, lyrics that just seem to capture exactly how you’re feeling and its breathtaking guitar solo. After seeing this song being performed, it can never be erased from one’s mind, and I could see its impact on the awestruck faces of the two gentlemen beside me. It was a wonderful moment to share, and John Mayer should be very proud to have created such a piece of music.
Unfortunately, the gig had to come to a halt at some point in time, although I’m quite sure he could’ve gone on for hours without complaint from any of the audience. Finishing with another new song about defining the boundaries of complicated relationships “Friends, Lovers or Nothing”, he bid farewell to the tumultuous applause from the crowd and was gone.
As brief as the gig was (lasting just over an hour), it felt like a dream. I highly recommend seeing John Mayer as many times as you possibly can, for his talent and charisma outshine most of the other drivel in the music industry 10 fold. As only John himself can put it, “My name is John Mayer and I’m still the same jackass I’ve always been”.
Enjoy it yourself! The entire gig will be televised on the Seven Network on Sunday 29th November at 11am and Channel [V] on Saturday 2nd January from 5pm.