Mainstream acceptance may still be eluding John Mayer in the UK, but it's pleasing to see that without chart success this side of the pond that the 39 year-old can still effortlessly fill London's O2 Arena on two consecutive nights. The second of these dates marked a hiatus in Mayer's The Search For Everything world tour, as he'll take a break over the summer to tour again with the Grateful Dead in the States. Perhaps it was a point of reflection on the tour as the set list was dramatically changed from the previous evening, resulting in a crowd-pleasing and occasionally exhilarating performance that the band also seemed to enjoy thoroughly.
The Search For Everything is a more eclectic album for Mayer, retreating somewhat from the foray into 1970's Californian Laurel Canyon Rock that he's recently undertaken. The accompanying tour seems to underline that attitude by delving deeper into his back catalogue in an effort to compliment his new compositions. That's also the key to why there are so few staple songs in the set, this isn't an opportunity to roll out the 'Greatest Hits' for Mayer, rather a chance to create a narrative with all the musicians at his disposal. There's a distinctly novelistic approach to the screens that sub-divide the set (five chapters including an epilogue), but the structure that's employed feels purposeful rather than pompous, leading the audience through a well-curated trip down memory lane.
The opening chapter featured Mayer's full six-piece band and indicated just how important Continuum is as a sibling to his newest record. Featuring 'Waiting On The World To Change' at the top of the show also felt like a sly political statement, especially when complimented by new song 'Helpless', but regardless of the narrative being built Mayer was already having fun, taking a brief opportunity to play solo with his friend Steve Jordan on drums early on. Three of the five songs played during the full band's introduction were new, but over the entire two-hour show it was older material that started to take centre stage. This shift was most apparent during the second chapter, an acoustic performance by Mayer, featuring rare outings for 'Walt Grace's Submarine Test', a cathartic 'Stop This Train', and an early appearance for 'Neon'.
The real highlight of the show was the third chapter, a resurrection for the John Mayer Trio, and an opportunity to showcase Mayer's enthusiasm for the Blues. The inclusion of a short video introducing the trio added some context before a thundering version of Robert Johnson's 'Crossroads' filled the arena. Suddenly the show stepped up a gear with Jordan's drums masterfully keeping Mayer's intricate guitar solos and Pino Palladino's outstanding work on bass in check. The trio's three-song appearance may have been brief, but the experience seemed to energise Mayer and the crowd. It's that momentum that carried through into the reprise of the full band and moments like David Ryan Harris' tribute to Prince with 'The Beautiful Ones', a triumphant sing along during 'Dear Marie', and a mesmerising version of 'Gravity' that lit up the arena with mobile phone lights. By the time that Mayer returned to the stage to play the piano ballad 'You're Gonna Live Forever In Me' it was clear that the narrative of the show mirrored that of The Search For Everything, in a more detailed and autobiographical way.
Throughout the show Mayer gave the audience the opportunity to see different incarnations of both himself and his back catalogue. There was little need for elongated crowd interactions to dirupt that narrative, but the moments he chose to speak directly to the audience were warm and humble, especially as he explained his affection for set closer 'Dear Marie'. The live versions of newer songs, including 'In The Blood' and the guitar part at the end of 'Changing', gave those compositions more bite than their studio counterparts. The musicians that Mayer has assembled as his touring party are amongst the best working today, so it's little surprise that with the thought and talent that's gone into the overall production, it's likely to be one of the best shows that the O2 Arena will host this year.
Listen to John Mayer's most recent single 'Still Feel Like Your Man'
Official Site -
Audiences may be divided over whether this comedy crosses the line as it looks for...