John Mayer – Rod Laver Arena : Gig Reviews
The equally adored and detested singer/songwriter/musician, John Mayer, arrived in Melbourne for his Australian leg of his Battle Studies World Tour, with Australian rock heroine Orianthi in support. After an extensive tour of the US, followed by his European tour, Mayer played his first concert here since his Continuum album tour in 2007. A sold-out Rod Laver Arena saw over thousands of people pack the venue in anticipation of the night ahead.
While Adelaide born Orianthi entertained the swelling crowd, playing tracks such as hit single ‘According To You’ and ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’, off her debut album ‘Believe’, she failed to connect and wholly resonate with the crowd. While her guitar skills are somewhat undeniable, the audience failed to be captured by her set. Whether this was due to its lack of energy, or whether the audience just wanted to see Mayer, it was a shame for this promising young girl.
With just a rug laid on the ground and all their instruments, the band took the stage. To the sounds of Battle Studies anthemic track ‘Assassin’, a girl squealed, guys joined in the screaming too, and unrelenting camera flashes waved through the crowd and rippled through the arena.
After his recent stint in the media for all the wrong reasons, Mayer seemed on the somewhat straight and narrow, going back to basics in regards to both personality and performance. Proceeding to the second track, the opening chords to his initial hit single, ‘No Such Thing’, off his debut album Room For Squares, the crowd was in their element, with many wondering if he had peaked too early by playing this popular track. However we soon found out this was certainly not the case.
Mayer, backed by his handpicked band grooved into ‘Vultures’. The recent addition of two female backup singers sees his more bluesy and soul stylings, shown particularly though the Continuum release, transformed perfectly on stage, bringing a whole new energy to his set.
Conversing in between songs, Mayer admitted that ‘the most energetic thrust of inspiration’ he had ever received before a show, was watching the fans walk into the arena prior. He delved momentarily into his deeper nature before stating from the much beloved Spinal Tap, ‘Tonight, we’re going to rock you. Tonight.’ before launching into ‘Waiting On The World To Change’, the funky politically fuelled track coated in pop, as only Mayer can do.
Recent single ‘Perfectly Lonely’ gave the audience another taste of the newer material, which was followed by what was to become a highlight of the night for many. The band left the stage while Mayer remained, acoustic guitar in hand, singing a nothing less than stunning rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’, which transgressed into a first album classic, ‘3 x 5’. Remaining alone on stage and continuing the acoustic set, ‘Stop This Train’, enchanted the crowd, evolving into a sing along, with the perfect acoustics for the occasion.
Mayer played around a little vocally with the heartbreaking ode, ‘All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye’ and in lifting the tempo a little from the previous few tracks, the band were welcomed back on stage. Following on from ‘Belief’, was the closest to folk Mayer had ever been, with mellow single, ‘Who Says’, having the audience teenage girls and their mothers and fathers alike, singing along, ‘Who says I can’t get stoned…’.
Classic Mayer was re-visited with second album Heavier Things track ‘Bigger Than My Body’, having all in attendance singing out the chorus as powerful as they could. The influences with regard to his newer release are obvious when it comes to the U2 influenced, ‘Heartbreak Warfare’, with the usual Mayer spin on things (a nod to Elvis through incorporation of lyrics), and treating the audience to more of his skilful and inspiring guitar work.
He thanked the supportive Australian crowd for ‘giving him a career over here’. The final song for the evening was prefaced by a serenading involving Footloose track, ‘Almost Paradise’, before descending into ‘Half Of My Heart’, which ultimately eventuated into an instrumental mid-track jam which evolved surprisingly, into Journey’s hit song, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. This, another highlight of the evening, involved the final singing of ‘Thank you Melbourne!’, as well as singing, ‘We’ll see you again real real real real soon!’, having the audience fanatically cheering once more.
Returning to the stage almost as soon as they had left, Mayer and his touring band received a tremendous reception from the 12,500 strong crowd, which packed the arena. Declaring ‘That’s it, I’m buying a condo here’, after a rapturous response from the crowd beginning the encore, he laughed ‘You’re gonna get sick of me I’ll be here so much!’ smoothly progressing to fan favourite old track ‘Why Georgia’. The Grammy award winning blues rock track ‘Gravity’, equipped with the most impressive guitar solo of the evening, it was clear to see why he is hailed as the predecessor to Clapton, stating why he is considered one of the best guitarists in the music industry.
An incredibly solid offering of his back catalogue, spanning all releases, Mayer treated his Melburnian fans to an incredible concert, playing for just over two hours. Seeming genuinely appreciative of the crowd, Mayer didn’t just bring the show, he was the show. Encapsulating over 12,000 people with his musical prowess, guitar expertise and transcendental lyricism, Mayer is a rare artist who despite his folly, continues to prove time and time again, why he is held in such high regard as a musician, worldwide. Truly an incredibly evening of music, Australian fans, and fans around the world alike, can only hope that this is merely the beginning of a truly legendary artist of our time. And if this concert was anything to go by, he’ll become one sooner rather than later.