I turned 52 in April of this year, and throughout the course of the day I received a number of messages and greetings. One of those was from my eldest son, Mike, who rang me from work. The conversation went something like this...
"Dad, could you buy me 2 tickets for John Mayer for your birthday, and I'll pay you back when I've got some money?"
Now I enjoy Mr Mayer's work, but Mike is a BIG fan, so I was left wondering just who this present was for, but, whatever...
Those tickets were for the first of his two London shows this month, which took place at the O2 last night. Let me tell you about it...
We travelled down on the National Express from Sheffield on Sunday morning, arriving in Victoria Coach Station at around 15:15. The journey was uneventful, and the weather when we arrived was pretty miserable. We grabbed a bite of lunch in Subway, then hopped on a tube to Greenwich. The O2 Arena - the old Millennium Dome - is quite an impressive place, and this was the first time I'd visited the place. A touch of t-shirt shopping (a necessary ritual at any gig) and then a spot of Fish & Chips before taking our place in the queue.
Having booked the seats on the day they went on sale, and having asked for 'best available' when I booked, we were, naturally, almost as far away from the stage as it was possible to be and close to stratospheric in height. Despite not being able to make out much detail on the stage, however, it wasn't a bad view once the screens came into play, and by 19:30, along with around 18,000 others, we were ready to enjoy the show.
First on, for an opening 30 minute set, was Gabrielle Aplin. When she was announced as the support act Mike was doubly delighted as he'd been enjoying her music since before she became 'big' and had seen her last year at 'The Plug' in Sheffield. This was clearly a scary prospect for her, playing such a large venue and to such a huge crowd, but she managed very well indeed, despite the screens not being on and the lighting not being tailor-made for her set. Her music spoke for itself, and spoke eloquently.
John Mayer's set was brilliant throughout. He covered material from a number of his albums; his guitar-playing, both electric and acoustic, was tight and energetic - in fact I would say that, on his day, he is one of the top blues guitarists around at the moment; his voice, which had been causing him some problems recently, was back to its best, and whether it was country, blues or rock, he was throughout the consummate showman. The knowledgeable crowd joined in with most of the songs, too.
Half Of My Heart
I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Something Like Olivia
Going Down The Road
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room
Blues Run The Game
Queen Of California
If I Ever Get Around To Living
Waiting On The World To Change
The Age Of Worry.
Can't Find My Way Home
The show was accompanied by a backdrop of scenes from Monument Valley animated with stars, snow, blossom falling, Chinese lanterns taking off, and people dancing around camp-fires among other things, which visually enhanced the spectacle, particularly for those of us who couldn't make out the players on the stage. The band were excellent (I didn't make a note of their names, sadly) and all-in-all it was an excellent evening in a great venue.
All that was left was to find Mike's friend's place in Lewisham, where we were crashing for the night, which took us about an hour, as every taxi I tried to hail completely ignored us. Home today after a tourist-y stroll around Westminster & St James' Park.
I can truthfully say that, as birthday presents go, it was definitely worth the wait!