Wednesday, 25 June 2014

John Mayer at the O2 Arena, London - 09/06/14

Eight months after his last UK tour, John Mayer returned to London a few weeks ago, for a one-off date at the O2 Arena. Much like last year's October shows, this gig once again centred around Mayer's 2012 Born And Raised album, along with current release, Paradise Valley. Upon entering the O2, I was curious as to how this gig would compare to the previous year's strong, but not overly spontaneous set - especially when considering the relatively short space of time that has passed since those last UK shows.

Mayer opened the set with 'Queen Of California', followed by the instantly recognisable grooves of 'I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)' - a welcome nod to the Continuum album, refreshingly early on in the performance. These initial songs noticeably got the crowd invested in the music, all the while setting the pace for a gig that touched upon the majority of Mayer's back catalogue, including some much-yearned for early material and rarities.

Though I haven't warmed to Born And Raised and Paradise Valley in the same way as his earlier work, in my previous Mayer review, I spoke of how some of these newer songs thrived in a live setting at the last O2 show. Much like that gig, this performance delivered some songs which, although haven't captivated me on record, came to life with the support of a live band, in the dynamic surroundings of the venue. 'Speak For Me' was the most notable example of this; Mayer's harmonic vocal intro, finely complimented by backing vocalists Carlos Ricketts Jr. and Tiffany Palmer, in addition to the increased pace and momentum of the final chorus, gave the track a much more melodic, yet bold sound in comparison to the studio version that appears on Born And Raised.

In a setlist that was typically standard for this tour, early favourites like 'Neon' proved a highlight for long-time fans, and added more variety to the evening. Within this solo acoustic section of the set, Mayer also teased 'Something's Missing', and as frustrating as it was that he didn't play the Heavier Things track in its entirety, the crowd was instead treated to another surprise rarity in the form of 'In Your Atmosphere'.

Other key moments of the night naturally came by way of the Continuum record. 'Waiting On The World To Change', complete with Aaron Sterling's impressive extended drum intro was particularly memorable, while a single encore track of 'Gravity', was made all the more bittersweet by Mayer's revelation earlier in the set, that this gig would be his last UK performance in support of the Born And Raised / Paradise Valley albums. With this in mind, I felt that Mayer once again delivered a well-rounded set, which though wasn't that generous in length, managed to span most of his previous releases - particularly Continuum - while still keeping a focus on the current material, and allowing for some unexpected rarities along the way. The prospect of a new Mayer album has me intrigued as to what direction his music will now progress to, following two albums that have been so similar in genre, yet have for the most part, flourished in a live setting.

All photos courtesy of Ian McAllister