John Mayer - Battle Studies Tour
3 May 2010, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.
Guest reporter David was impressed that Mayer could inspire intimacy in the corporate atmosphere of Rod Laver Arena.
On an exceptionally wintery Monday evening I ventured into town to catch John Mayer and band at Rod Laver Arena. Judging by my lengthy search to find a park and the masses of teenage girls and guitar gurus passing me by, a sizeable crowd was to be expected.
There's something about the sterile environment of Rod Laver Arena that really bugs me. It's a testament to the quality of any performer who can break down the walls and create any sense of intimacy in that environment.
Unfortunately, due to a fairly hectic and extensive touring schedule, including seven Australian shows in 10 days, Mayer tends to play more stadiums these days than perhaps the more appropriate theatres he's played in past tours.
At precisely 8:45 John and band took the stage and grooved into "Assassin" from his latest album Battle Studies. Not an obvious choice to open proceedings, yet it showed off the band's incredible musicianship within its ranks.
Mayer was flanked by longtime guitarists David Ryan Harris and Robbie McIntosh, both of whom have been staples in his band for over five years. Rather than pay hired guns to make up the numbers, Mayer prefers to form long-term relationships with band members and it shows, as the band's harmony and musical interactions were delightful to watch during renditions of "Waiting On The World To Change" and "No Such Thing".
The set was largely made up of hits from Mayer's four studio albums, but the song of the night was "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye" from Battle Studies, about which John said as he was closing: "It's hardly a hit, but I like playing it."
The banter in between songs was a highlight. Mayer made a number of quips about his love/hate relationship with the media as well as being especially complimentary of his audience.
One thing I can't understand is the addition of two female vocalists to John's band, both of whom did some terribly choreographed dance moves throughout the show. Both were obviously very talented singers, but they didn't seem to add enough to necessitate them being there.
For the most part the largely female crowd seemed to be accepting of Mayer's fairly recent change in musical direction. Prior to the recording of his third album, Continuum, John remarked that he was "closing up shop on acoustic sensitivity". With that in mind, drummer Keith Carlcok lead the band into the bluesy "Belief" and "Vultures".
The main set was closed with recent hits "Heartbreak Warfare" and "Half of My Heart" before the band returned for an encore of the song Mayer attributes as the most important song he's ever written: "Gravity". During this song the band jammed out extensively and for one final time showed off the talent of all players.
All in all, John Mayer and band are a class act. His ability to keep things fresh in addition to the chemistry between him and his band members make them a must-see.
You don't have to be musically inclined to enjoy John's shows, but you do need to be open-minded about large sections of musical improvisation.
Mayer did well to create some sense of intimacy in a trying environment and also honoured both his acoustic pop side and his blues-infused side. Overall it was a really enjoyable night, and as I left the chirping crowd of loyal John Mayer followers seemed to agree.
4 out of 5.