Music

Reviewed: John Mayer @ The O2, London

“We’re used to pubs”, proclaims Swedish-born singer-songwriter Andreas Moe, halfway through his support set for John Mayer at London’s The O2. As accustomed as he may be to it, the stage he’s standing on is a far cry from the pub gigging scene – Moe’s words, however, perhaps unintentionally, highlighted the strongest aspect of the evening’s atmosphere: a mastery of stage presence, tech and musicianship which – and this is a rare thing indeed – transformed The O2 into a pleasant, intimate setting, that barely ever felt like the 20,000-person behemoth it actually is.

This can be said for Mayer’s set as well as Moe’s, though it was during that support set that this intimacy was initially recognisable. This was done via a combination of his own on-stage charisma – characterised by a sort of familiar affability that certainly wouldn’t feel out of place on the stage of a London pub – and a particular brand of folk-pop that was largely carried by the impressive energy of his touring band (the highlight of which was some particularly strong brass sections in a handful of songs, though much can be said for Moe’s own vocal ability). It was a fairly simple set, but charming in its own way and driven, at times, by an impressive energy which ultimately justified their place supporting an act as large as Mayer.

That same energy also pervaded much of Mayer’s set, which, at its peak moments, displayed an immensely impressive degree of vigour. Mayer himself seemed a hugely adept guitarist, and apart from one slip-up later in the set – reportedly caused by a distraction caused by a sign in the crowd that had been written using extremely poor grammar – his actual performance was pretty much spotless.

That sign slip-up and Mayer’s consequent amusement seemed typical of his comfort on-stage and genial nature towards the crowd, which helped to form a stage presence that was as equally funny as it was endearing. The only real weak link of his performance lay in an acoustic section which dragged on for perhaps just two or three songs too long – Mayer’s strength as a live musician lies in the raucous energy which stems from his band as well as his own guitar work, and an uninterrupted stretch of solo acoustic work for that amount of time fell slightly flat.

Credit must be given to the tech crew working the show – the sound, even in the upper regions of the arena, never truly faltered, and the lighting was as strong as you might expect for an arena show. But whilst the tech side of the night was as capable as could be hoped, the actual performances of John Mayer, Andreas Moe and their respective bands were branded with the type of stage presence and – most of the time – the sort of relentless energy that too many artists fail to effectively maintain in an environment as vast as an arena like The O2.

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