John Mayer – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2019

John Mayer – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2019

Pop artist John Clayton Mayer is one slick customer. The grandiose presence of an eight piece band on stage visually imposing, and not in a ‘blot on the landscape’ kind of way either. The song endings & musician solo spots, tuned with the precision of a Swiss watch maker. Impressive, not only by the professionalism displayed, but also how much Mayer has evolved as an artist & person.

WORDS BY WAL RIED

I’m not sure if it was the heartfelt intro of Kiwi songstress Bella Kalolo singing How Great Thou Art in Maori, the breaking out into an impromptu Haka or the sublime guitar solos of Isaiah Sharkey and David Ryan Harris on the last song Still Feel Like A Man, that got me. However, this gig with its strong cultural Kiwi flavour, was as good as it gets. Somehow thinking of him as a Hone didn’t seem out of place.

For me, tonights performance signaled a maturity to Mayer’s songwriting & as he quipped, “twenty years” in the business and it still surprises even him how many of his songs become hits, happy it wasn’t “capped”. He also mentioned, it was the first time in years he had performed with sound “mind and soul.”, not that anyone had noticed.

Heartbreak Warfare was a strong opening stanza as the stage literally came alive with musicians firing on all cylinders. Followed in quick succession were No Such Thing from his successful Room For Squares album and the lullaby of Who Says before heading into last years hit New Light, giving the crowd a teaser of things to come for the night.

Kicking off his World Tour in New Zealand, It was also the first time he had played two sets, but that didn’t matter to the hordes of JM fans packed into the burgeoning Spark Arena – funny, I only spotted one fan sign, a lone beacon held high to her Idol as if attracting his attention by semaphore. I don’t think it was not due to a waning in Mayer’s popularity but more a mindset of the concert goers or maybe a departure from that dreadful 90s trend of ‘sign bombing’. Nevertheless, it was a cute sentiment and she was tenacious as all hell.

John Mayer has a song for everybody and everybody has a John Mayer song. Whether it’s hearing for the first time the twee sugar-coated Georgia or the lyrical cringe of Body Is A Wonderland, most can pinpoint a place, time and occasion with a Mayer song – sad, but true. Well, true in my life anyway. Gravity was devastatingly good. It’s simple lyrics and infectious melody, had the whole arena lit up with mobile phones, everyone singing to their merry hearts content.

He many songs about “fools” including one of his favourites Rosie which resonated with the audience, while he was in a dancing mood he cajoled his entourage to follow suit as he set the tempo groove on guitar. The evolution of John Mayer from Pop to Blues artist was noticeable in the second set, as he started with an acoustic treatment of Beyoncé’s XO before Love On The Weekend and If I ever Get Around To The Weekend rounding out the evening proceedings. As the night drew to an end he was quick to mention, “there’s the fake ending and the real ending”.

Mayer’s dour expression is reflective of his reserved gait on stage, however that quickly gives way to a less wooden Mayer as he finds solace soloing pentatonic notes on his guitar. Mayer seems less tormented by past demons, demonstrating the musical prowess and Soulful vibe he is known for. The genuine accolade heaped on The Heart of Life was a reticent outpouring for a grieving nation and he acknowledged that in his own personal way. “From our heart to yours” he said, somehow that was all that was needed to be said, adding, “We love you.”

If you had told me that John Mayer had cleaned up his act, got responsible socially and ditched the broody pensive look he’s sported for years, I would have scoffed. But here he is, on stage looking the best he’s ever looked and probably the happiest with his band. Infectious definitely. Maybe the World has taken notice?

The wait is over, and there, in the tiniest of moments in the Spark Arena, we all witnessed a glimpse of change.

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