Wednesday, April 03, 2019

In Your Atmosphere - Review of John Mayer's concert, Singapore Indoor Stadium, 1st April 2019

He's already received a positive review in today's Life! section, but I'd like to add my two cents.

First, some background: I've been a fan of JM's since 2001, when his debut album, Room For Squares, was released.
Marketed by Columbia Records as a pop release - no doubt banking on John's pretty boy looks - it spawned hits like Your Body Is A Wonderland, which he wrote about then-girlfriend, actress Jennifer Love Hewitt.

I loved the album immediately, but not because of Wonderland. I was more inclined towards the other less well-known tracks, like Neon and 83 ( the latter is one of my all-time faves ).

Next came Heavier Things (2003), followed by Continuum (2006).
Continuum is regarded by many to be his career best, and for good reason. John finally moved from pop/rock to blues and soul, churning out classics like Waiting on the World to Change, Vultures and Gravity.
I was totally OBSESSED with this album, with vivid memories of blasting it at high volume on my car stereo during many long drives to and from work. John, you have no idea how much your music helped me get through those interminable traffic jams. :)

Let's not forget his live album releases - Any Given Thursday (2003) and Try! (2005) ( as the John Mayer Trio ).
Try! was on constant repeat for many months. His cover of Ray Charles' I Got A Woman always gave me oestrogen surges. :D

My enthusiasm waned a little after Battle Studies (2009). Probably because Continuum set such a high bar and was just too difficult to outdo. Born and Raised (2012) and Paradise Valley (2013) saw John exploring the folk and country music genres, but The Search for Everything (2017) saw a return to pop, blues and soul.

Watching JM live on stage was always on my bucket list, but I stopped short of travelling overseas just to see him ( even though I did this twice for Josh Groban and once for Hugh Jackman ). So when he finally decided to perform in Singapore, I wanted a ticket extremely badly. And many thanks to my friend's husband for somehow managing to get through to the Sports Hub Tix website when my friend and I were stuck in the virtual waiting room. Without his amazing luck, I would never have had a chance to see one of my favourite musicians.

On to the show itself.
It sold out within a few hours, and additional restricted view seats were later released.
I opted for a spot in the tiered middle section, which offered a panoramic view of stadium, and I had my friend and her hubby for good company.

John came out promptly at 8:15pm, to deafening cheers from the crowd, and I knew it was going to be a terrific night.
He launched into an energetic performance of Helpless ( from The Search for Everything ), followed by New Light ( a standalone single ), I Don't Trust Myself ( with Loving You ) ( Continuum ), Something Like Olivia ( Battle Studies ) and Paper Doll ( Paradise Valley ).
I loved the toggling between albums, which kept the audience on their toes and made the show interesting.
I also wondered how he planned his set list, because based on what he posted on social media, every concert is completely different.

Two songs from the first half stood out for me: Love on the Weekend ( TSFE ) and Heartbreak Warfare ( BS ).
Both weren't on my radar despite multiple listens previously, but the live versions were incredible!
Kudos to John and his band for their savvy musical arrangements ( and TWO drummers on stage, which must've made the difference ). LOTW sounded so beautiful, and HW became an adrenaline-pumping anthem. I couldn't stop smiling. :)

After the 20-minute intermission, John returned alone to the stage, performing acoustic versions of Badge and Gun ( PV ), Your Body is a Wonderland ( RFS ), Free Fallin' ( a cover of the Tom Petty classic ) and In Your Atmosphere ( from his live album, Where The Light Is: Live in LA ).
The audience really stepped up on Wonderland and Free Fallin' - they belted the lyrics with gusto, and John paused multiple times to let us fill in the blanks. His appreciative smiles could be seen by everyone on the big screens. Good job, fans!

After Queen of California ( B&R ), I Guess I Just Feel Like ( single ), Who Says ( BS ) and The Age of Worry ( B&R ), came Slow Dancing in a Burning Room ( Continuum ).
Slow Dancing featured the BEST guitar solo of the night, and I was very lucky to be recording when he played it. 2 minutes of pure heaven, OMG. :)

Waiting on the World to Change ( Continuum ) and Still Feel Like Your Man ( TSFE ) closed the second half, with Edge of Desire ( BS ) and Gravity ( Continuum ) for the encore.

The show ended at 11pm. And we still wanted more. :)

John was in high spirits the entire evening, evidenced by his bopping to the music and frequent smiles. During the song Changing ( TSFE ), many turned their mobile phone lights on and waved them around, which he acknowledged after the performance, saying, "Thank you for the lights, it was beautiful."

In the first half, he also mentioned a sign a fan was holding up in the floor section, asking for a chance to go on stage to play the guitar with him.
He graciously expressed his appreciation for the request, but joked that "it's just something I don't want to do; I want you to enjoy the show without having the hold it up the whole night; I'm concerned about your bi's ( biceps ) and your tri's ( triceps )". Lol!

He isn't a talkative person by nature ( unlike my other fave singers Jason Mraz, Josh Groban, Michael Buble and Ryan Tedder ), but he made it a point to thank fans who "reached out to me" on Instagram and kept asking him to come to Singapore. He wasn't sure what kind of reception he'd get, but he got his answer when he saw the full house and heard the cheers and mass singalongs.

I also had no idea he's so popular here. All these years, I thought he appealed to a niche audience - I guess because all my colleagues and most of my friends never expressed any interest in him. Two nights ago, I finally realized I wasn't alone, and it was FREAKING AWESOME!

John ended the show with a promise to return soon - something he repeated in a social media post that same night.
His exact words were: "First time playing Singapore, and nowhere near the last. I enjoyed every second of each song knowing it was the first time anyone in the room had heard them live. Not a moment taken for granted. And what a crowd. Thank you, Singapore."

I'd like to conclude this entry with something I posted on John's Facebook page. No idea if he or his management team saw it, but other fans did:
"After waiting 18 long years, this immensely gifted musician has finally performed in my country, blessing us with one of the best concerts in history.
As the song title goes - Mr. Mayer, it was a privilege to be In Your Atmosphere. To be in the same room with you, to just breathe the same air, to witness your legendary musicianship in person. I will never forget this incredible night, and please keep your promise to come back. And soon! Not after another 18 years."

I've lost count of the number of shows I've attended since I was a kid, so it's a testament to how amazing John Mayer was that night, when I put him in my top 3 list.
#1 is Jason Mraz's 2006 gig at the Esplanade Concert Hall
#3 is Robbie Williams' 2001 concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium

And last but not least, John is unbelievably handsome. Not the reason I'm a fan ( honest! ) but it adds to the enjoyment of his music when he's so nice to look at haha. :)
I also notice how he gets very caught up in the performance, especially during the guitar solos. He closes his eyes and seems hypnotized by the whole experience.

On a side note, make sure you check out his recent music videos and TV interviews, where his quirky humour is on full display.
The videos for New Light ( JM in PJs ) and Paper Doll ( the one that features "advanced prancercise" ) are real hoots!
He's mellowed a lot these past 10 years and I love his personality.
There's a lot more to this man than just his music.

Thanks for coming to Singapore, John! I hope I can be at your next show here, fingers crossed. And please play Vultures and In The Blood next time round. :)

[ photo credit: Live Nation Singapore ]