Concert Review with PHOTOS: John Mayer

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL JOHN MAYER GALLERY BY MARK DERRICUTT

By Lisa Diedricks

Artist: John Mayer

Date / Venue: Saturday March 23rd, 2019 - Spark Arena, Auckland

Years ago, I found myself at the peak of my John Mayer fandom, from his ability to pick at a guitar like some of the best, to his un apologetic lyrics and facial expressions. I’ve seen videos of Mayer playing the Blues. I was so impressed by his guitar playing and the talented blues musicians he played with, I found myself quickly putting him in my top 5 must see acts, which turned into me just becoming a super fan. The videos I discovered years ago, are still to this day just as outstanding as his videos now, his guitar playing so deft and innovative, and can we talk about the emotional riffs and solos, something we defiantly don’t hear too often in his pop music. There’s another side to John Mayer lately, that some don’t know about.

It is that side of him that led me to his “World Tour 2019” concert at Auckland’s Spark Arena, where the tour actually started. I don't know what I was expecting, like I said, I had never seen him live before, just videos, I didn’t want to fool myself into thinking I'd get all the songs I'd come to know and love over the course of 10 years, I didn’t even think I was going to see a blues concert, I wanted a glimpse of him playing guitar, up close and personal. And he delivered.

Straight up, I’ll say that the theme for the concert was very simple, the production was spectacular in an easy, hip, understated way, right down to the lighting. The concert was sectioned in two halves unlike his previous shows where it was more like chapters from a book, seeing John and his 9 bandmates heading off for intermission for 30 mins.

Before initial kick off, John and kiwi songstress Bella Kalolo gave one of the most beautiful renditions of ‘How Great Thou Art’ with Bella singing her verse in Te Reo followed by a Haka.

The show then began it’s promise, launching John Mayer and his whole band, complete with two backup singers, two drummers, keys, bass, and another two guitarists, They swung into, ‘Heartbreak Warfare’ a huge hit from his 2009 ‘Battle Studies’ album, a perfect way to start the nights antics with great guitar work by Mayer.

Pleasantly surprised, even though it was a seated event, I (and many of the seated crowd) rose to my feet for most of the night to watch the show. When I say I could pretty much smell John, I’m not really exaggerating. We were that close. A guy in front of me ended up FaceTiming his wife for some parts of the show too. One of girls next to us, shouted to Mayer that she wanted to have his baby. Which seemed to be the theme of the night.

Grabbing his acoustic guitar for ‘Who Says’, a fingerpicking tune, Mayer created such a unique resonance mixed with crisp and tight tones and chord progressions too.

‘New Light’ which is one of Mayer’s newest tracks, featured Mayer in typical breezy, pop style, but his guitar chops had me mesmerised. Seriously, he is a magnificent guitarist and a talented songwriter. I can’t stress that enough. A lot of people are always asking name a John Mayer hit that I know, and the fan in me wants to name the ‘Assassins’, ‘Daughters’ and ‘Perfectly Lonely’, but most faces just look confused, so I end up saying, ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’ - which makes me ill as this man is so much more than that damn song. He has monster hits and songs that have much more soul and deepness and even though that may not be apparent by his “commercial” hits, the talent is certainly there.

Mayer’s band last night was composed of extraordinary musicians; Steve Jordan on drums, Pino Palladino on drums, Larry Goldings on keys, David Ryan Harris on guitar, and Isaiah Sharkey on guitar. The backup singers (Tiffany Palmer and Carlos Ricketts) added a certain depth to all of the tracks and almost gospel feel to the evening. Which I ain’t mad about at all. I was 100% here for this.

A few more popular songs later, Mayer had another beautiful moment in hand. He and the band closed out the first chapter of the set with a little soul groove number, that had everyone on their feet! Mayer’s guitar licks at the end of the tune were outstanding. His guitar licks after EVERY song was outstanding.

After intermission, I was ready to hear more hits, praying that he would play my all time favourite tunes, but alas only 1 of out my top 3 songs were played. I’m not complaining, however I personally think they are some of the best songs to perform. I figured he had played them so many times in his last tours he wanted to try something different this time round. Most times when concert goers go to to a show and their favourites aren’t played, there’s this sense of disappointment, and it usually starts with, “It’s was an amazing show, but I wish he played....” This time round I can safely say that even though not all my faves were played, I was not left disappointed. The man brought so much more the table that I forgot I was even waiting for certain songs. I was so enraptured by everything else. It didn’t even dawn on me that, ‘Neon’, ‘Free Fallin’ or ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’ wasn’t played. Most songs began with a jazzy intro by Mayer and blended into which ever song was on the setlist. Regardless of how you feel about John Mayer and all his controversies, the artist in him is certainly one of the best in the world.

‘XO’ (Beyonce Cover) was worth waiting for. Now, I'm not a Beyonce fan, so I wasn't TOO excited for this number, BUT if anyone can make me like this song, it was of course to be John Mayer.

‘Helpless’, ‘Changing’ and ‘Love on the Weekend’ were songs that surprised me, in that I was not expecting to love it as much as I did seeing it live. Mayer’s guitar playing was outstanding, breathtaking in spots and the bassist and drummer were so in sync, and so in their groove. Mayer displayed his true guitar chops in these songs.

This is why I was there. To see John Mayer cut loose and depart from the commercial hits. And to of course just stare at his hands pretty much the entire show. Like seriously, there was a time I just started at his hands for an entire segment. His voice, of course was nothing but perfect through out the whole night, it’s incredible to see that after 20 years he still has the same charisma and energy that he had when he first started. He did mention that last night, being the first show of tour, that this was the fist night he had felt both his mind, body and soul all present while on tour.

Some highlights of the night was singer-songwriter-guitarist, David Ryan Harris, back up vocals Tiffany Palmer and Carlos Ricketts, who were given the spotlight for a few minutes to show case why John had them on stage, they who sang snippets from songs, and lead the band into tracks, glowing in spotlight, the stage dark, their voices rung out into the stadium. It was unbelievable that these singers could make the entire arena come to a holt.

As the night was coming to a close, John thanked the crowd, like he had been doing after every song that night, and went on to say that he wanted to start the tour in Auckland this time because of how special this country is to him. He then went on and joked about how the next song would be his fake final song and then he will come back on for a final two songs. I laughed round for that as most artists think the crowd are oblivious to this ‘stunt” where as Mayer just called it out then and there.

You could hear the screams of “YOUR BODY IS A WONDERLAND” from your typical John Mayer fans, however, and I'm so happy about this, he did not play it as part of his final set. Instead he came back calmly and gracefully with ‘The Heart of Life’ and grooved out with ‘Still Feel Like Your Man’ which I was obsessed with! Took me back to my childhood days where I would watch my parents and their friends dance around the living room singing and dancing to their classic hits.

All in all, I guess you can say that I was all about the show, all about John and all about the music! If you’re into the true meaning of band work, instruments and improvising on stage, you have to see a JM show. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before, as cliche as that sounds, I'm sticking to it.