Music review: John Mayer - 'He plays interchangable, bland slices of blues rock'

Katy Perry might have added some much needed pop cheekiness to this energetic but po-faced blues affair

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The Independent Culture

“I didn't know you guys were even out there,” John Mayer gushes at the capacity crowd. “You've given me a lot of encouragement tonight,” adds the seven-times Grammy winner.

The Connecticut bluesman has already made a quip/barb that there can't be this many American foreign exchange students in London. The arena is not only packed with Brits but they're raucous with appreciation. One gruff male keeps on yelling “I love you John”, followed by “I want your babies”. Who knew there was this level of love for the tabloid's favourite lothario/love rat? A singer whose highest UK single chart placing was 42 for the unmemorable “No Such Thing” in 2002.

What's immediately clear is that he's gifted guitarist (he's duetted and held his own with Eric Clapton and BB King) backed by an accomplished band led by the excellent Andy Burton on keyboards. It's also clear that everyone here is immersed in all the material and is willing to forgive Mayer's every musical indulgence. Most notably some lengthy, freewheeling solos that eat up a sizeable chunk of the performance.

But with this crowd the earnest 36-year-old can do no wrong, even when he rips the delicacy and soul out of Tom Petty's sublime anthem “Free Fallin'”, over-egging everything, showing off his vocal range (which is particularly impressive since he's just recovered from surgery for a growth on his vocal chords) but adding nothing to the song.  

On his new laid-back album, Paradise Valley, which is arguably his strongest so far, he duets with Frank Ocean on “Wildfire” (which opens the set and is a highlight tonight) and with Katy Perry, his latest celebrity girlfriend, on “Who You Love”. The big hitters aren't in attendance, although Perry might have added some much needed pop cheekiness to this energetic but po-faced blues affair.

The biggest dud is “Paper Doll”, his alleged response to Taylor Swift's “Dear John”, which is plain whiny. However, it's in the calmer moments that he makes an impact as on “Dear Marie” , a track about a first love where he laments “I go looking for your photograph online”. The standout lyric of the entire night.

For Mayer and for his adoring faithful it's clearly a triumph as they whoop and holler after US hits such as “Gravity”, “Queen of California” and “Waiting on the World to Change”, all of which are interchangeable, somewhat bland slices of blues rock. I leave feeling a bit like Tom Hanks in Big: “I don't get it?”