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– An evening to be in a good mood by – Dagsavisen

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– An evening to be in a good mood by – Dagsavisen

5

CONCERT

John Mayer

Oslo Spectrum

John Mayer enters the great hall, sits modestly down, and plays “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room”. Already here he makes it clear that the guitar playing will be impeccable this evening, as if the songs themselves are not strong enough. The audience makes it clear that they intend to sing along. When the song is finished, it’s equally clear that they’re going to be howling hoarse for their personal favorites between each song. The next of them is “Shot In The Dark”, where many also make it clear that they are going to cheer extra loud for the best guitar trills.

During his first three concerts in Oslo Spektrum, John Mayer came with a full band, which gave him ample opportunity to sing out his songs with some of the best musicians in the back. This time he is all alone. That’s how he started playing for people around 25 years ago, and now the ring has temporarily stopped. Oslo Spektrum is as full as it gets. The audience is of many ages, but then there aren’t that many artists who have had connections to both the Grateful Dead and Taylor Swift. The average age is probably below Mayer’s own 46.

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It is not uncommon to see artists perform their songs alone in smaller venues. Nor to see an artist give his band a break to play a small solo section in the middle of a concert. It is also possible to perform like that in the biggest contexts, as Ed Sheeran proved by filling Wembley Stadium with acoustic guitar three nights in a row in 2015, for a quarter of a million people in total.

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In relation to this, John Mayer in Oslo Spektrum is almost an intimate performance. It’s still a bold exercise, but I can’t remember anyone else standing completely alone on this stage since Bruce Springsteen played the songs from the already stripped-down album “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” in 1996.

The stage is as big as at all other concerts. Mayer has three different “stations”, one for sitting and playing guitar, one for standing, and one for the piano. This is how he creates variety, in all its simplicity.

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An advantage of the simple format is that it is easier to vary the repertoire. On large arena tours, the set lists usually have only slight variations from night to night. A look at the statistics for this solo tour shows that Mayer has played over 125 different songs before coming to Oslo. I’m guessing that this leads to greater enthusiasm for the repertoire than performing the same 20 over and over again.

“Love On A Weekend”, “Neon” and “Something Like Olivia” ensure good progress in the set. We get to see an interview from 2002 on the big screen, the same year he was in Oslo for the first time, and played for a few hundred people in the middle of the morning.

Mayer struggles to count “Who Says” with one-two-three-four, although it is not strictly necessary without co-players. When he gets to the line with “It’s been a long night in New York City”, he follows up with the fact that it has been a long night in Oslo too, and of course it goes straight home.

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Now Mayer says he will play a song he rarely does acoustically. “Daughters” shouts a voice high up in the hall, and that’s it. And the incident leads to a long investigation into his own self-esteem. That he is completely clear about the fact that he is good at playing, but correspondingly unsure of which song to choose. And, in a corresponding exploration of all the possibilities he has here, he performs a verse and the chorus of The Jayhawks’ “Blue”, like something he just elegantly shakes out of his sleeve.

About halfway through, the artist sits down at the piano and starts whistling “You Gonna Live Forever In Me”. He apologizes for the simplicity of his piano playing compared to his guitar work. To emphasize this, he allows the piano notes to loop completely by themselves in “Changing”, while he picks up the electric guitar for the first and last time in this concert, and leaves it alone. Absolutely superb!

Back on the floor with the guitar comes “Stop This Train”, a song about the fear of time passing, and the age that begins to weigh. A few stanzas of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” finally tell more about where he comes from. “Your Body Is A Wonderland” brings out the big smiles in the hall.

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Mayer puts on a mini guitar he bought for $99 (not a ukulele, but the sound is somewhat similar), and plays a delightful “Do You Know Me.” This could have been the highlight for me. If he hadn’t continued with the beautiful, subtle “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”, with the special metallic National Resonator guitar, supposedly the only one suitable for playing one of his very best songs.

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Mayer has changed guitars for each and every new song during his two hours. He also has a double-necked guitar, for “Edge of Desire”, almost at the end. But there is also an encore, where he puts on a harmonica stand, like a new Dylan, and sings “Born And Raised”. I would have liked a feature from the Grateful Dead songbook before he finished, but instead it’s Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” at the very end – a less challenging choice, but obviously easier to sing along to for a packed house, which can’t be asked twice. An evening to be in a good mood!

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