Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Concert review: John Mayer, Vector Arena

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Mellowed musician now has a cross-generational appeal but his guitar solos still rock.

John Mayer, who kept his Vector Arena audience happy with a setlist which 
included old favourites and new material. Photo / AP
John Mayer, who kept his Vector Arena audience happy with a setlist which included old favourites and new material. Photo / AP

There's nothing particularly cool about John Mayer these days.

That's not meant as a criticism, but rather a simple observation that he's no longer releasing tunes that top pop charts and, despite his couplings with famous ladies that make him tabloid fodder, there's no screaming hordes chasing him with their iPhones whenever he steps off a plane.

In a way, that's what made his first Auckland concert in four years so satisfying.

The impressively diverse audience (from Daisy Duke shorts, to salt-and-pepper beards, to teen boys in hoodies) prove that Mayer has become an artist who inspires the kind of cross-generational appreciation that is so elusive these days.

Mums, dads, daughters and sons - their genuine enthusiasm throughout the evening took the show to an unexpectedly joyful place.

Many seats remained un-sat in for the two-hour duration, and there was just as much toe-tapping and singing along for his newer, more countrified songs, as for his older classics.

Any cynicism induced by Mayer's occasional potential to be a little saccharine, or a little indulgent in his guitar solos, was easily erased.

His musicianship was top notch, and his seven-piece band were equally adept, without being show-offy.

Sure the average song duration might've been stretched to the seven-minute mark, but those extra minutes of guitar wizardry were just as compelling as the hook-filled choruses.

With simply a giant Americanised tapa cloth type backdrop, and a few lights, Mayer had the audience eating out of his hand as he swung through tracks from his latest record, Paradise Valley, like Paper Doll (his rumoured response to Taylor Swift's Dear John), Wildfire (to which he gave a cool pseudo West African intro), and Dear Marie.

His earlier duet with Ms Swift was on the setlist though (Half of My Heart), and fellow Battle Studies track Who Says provided a singalong highlight.

Mid-set, the band left him alone with the acoustic guitar under the spotlight, and he asked the audience what they wanted to hear - and his early career hits Neon and Your Body Is A Wonderland got charmingly un-cheesy outings. They're songs that have surprisingly endured. His much-loved cover of Free Fallin' also got a turn, complete with understated pedal steel.

It was the tracks from 2006 album Continuum that proved the biggest hitters for the band and audience, though. Mayer seemed to find his easy swagger for Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, and Waiting on the World to Change, and saving Gravity for the encore turned Vector Arena into a glow-worm cave.

Mayer didn't do much chatting, but he did seem genuinely humbled by the audience, and far-removed from the tabloid stories that follow him.

Who: John Mayer
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Saturday, April 26

- NZ Herald

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