Plus about five or six years.
That’s how long I’ve loved John Mayer’s music. It was a gradual progression from interest (Back to You and the rest of Room for Squares), to like (Split Screen Sadness and Heavier Things) to love (Slow Dancing in a Burning Room and Continuum). And things came to a head for me in March of this year, when rumors started swirling that John Mayer was coming to Manila in May. I went on full stalker mode, constantly visiting his tour page for official confirmation, Googling “John Mayer in Manila” to make sure I got the latest news.
Finally, the date was set, and ticket prices publicized. The rates were exorbitant, but I didn’t care. The first day tickets became available, a friend and I left work early and drove all the way from Makati to Tomas Morato, where the Channel V offices were. We endured THREE HOURS of Channel V’s inept inefficiencies to finally purchase our tickets for the May 16 concert. I was technically supposed to be in South Africa on that date, but again, I didn’t care, I’ll figure it out. Come hell or high water, I was not going to miss this.
So I was actually quite relieved when the concert was postponed, as it saved me the hassle of explaining to my boss that I needed to be back home merely two weeks into my new job to watch a concert. And, as it turned out, it wasn’t that long of a wait, as I had adjusting to a new country, the World Cup, and two new jobs to distract me in between.
October 1 came around, and the first thought in my head when I woke up was “Crap, it’s raining!” Throughout the day, I was hoping and praying that the rain would let up, but it didn’t. It was pouring hard on our way to MOA, and I actually even called Channel V to double check if the concert was pushing through, or if, at the very least, there was a change in venue. It was so bad, that we decided to buy ourselves some raincoats from SM department store, where the salespeople didn’t know what hit them. There was such a clamor for raincoats that they had to take out all their stock, that raincoats were actually being snatched from the salesman’s hands as his was bringing them out from storage.
Armed with our industrial-strength kapote, we proceeded to the venue and to our seats. With the rain, wet seats, and the tight legroom in between rows (they made economy class legroom seem like first class!), it wasn’t looking like it was going to be a comfortable night. Overall, there was a feeling of “John Mayer better make all this trouble worth it”.
I’ve read mixed reviews on his concert, ranging from the inane and downright stupid to the valid (“He didn’t really establish a rapport with the crowd”). It is my opinion that if you’re a mere casual fan (you know the singles, but never really listened to the albums), then you were probably disappointed by the setlist and the concert as a whole. Sure, there was Your Body is a Wonderland, No Such Thing and Gravity, but he didn’t play a lot of the songs the more mainstream audience loves and would recognize (Back to You, Love Song for No One, Dreaming with a Broken Heart, etc.).
But if you were hard-core, die-hard fan, then, apart from maybe a few more songs (but don’t we all feel the same way after every concert?) and better weather, there really was nothing more you could ask for. If you were there for his guitar playing, then you would definitely have had your fill. John Mayer, pop-rock roots notwithstanding, proved that night (and many other nights, for sure) why he is being touted by some as the heir apparent to Eric Clapton. While I wasn’t able to keep track of all the solos, his ukulele vs saxophone showdown of sorts in Do You Know Me? particularly stands out (I’ll stop here. I’ll leave the praise/critique of JM’s guitar playing to those who know what they’re talking about. I can’t even tell the difference between a Stratocaster and a Starcaster.).
If you were like me, though, and you were there for the songs, then it’ll just be a matter of taste. Personally, apart from the unfortunate exclusion of the tonally upbeat but lyrically heartbreaking Split Screen Sadness, I was satisfied. I’ve always found it remarkable how JM’s songs are always about something everyone has gone through but in a totally real, non-sappy, non-cheesy way. He writes about heartbreak so well (surprisingly enough, given his douche-y history with women), but never with the oh-woe-is-me-I-can’t-live-without-you sentimentality most songs come with. He perfectly captures the confusion, the conflicting feelings that love and life come along with: the torture of pining for someone you’ve broken up with, the awkwardness and nervousness of dating, the satisfaction in and concurrent loneliness of being single, the inherent stubbornness that keeps us in relationships that we know are doomed anyway and our almost sadistic ability to hurt the people we love.
Which is why, it wasn’t Your Body is a Wonderland (uggggh, puh-lease.) that had me shrieking my head off and shedding some tears (yes, I’m pathetic. I know.). It was the opening guitar riff to Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, the bridge to Heartbreak Warfare and the bass line to his encore, Edge of Desire that got the tears flowing. To say that I love these songs is an understatement. There was a point where I just had these three on repeat on my iPod and ONLY these three. To hear them live, and that close was just overwhelming for me.
The night was almost perfect (although, I almost had a meltdown when I thought he wasn’t going to perform Edge of Desire). Apart from the aforementioned exclusion of one of my favorite JM songs, my only other grievance was about the asshats up front who refused to lower their umbrellas, obstructing everyone who wasn’t seated in row B’s view (and yes, that was me who started one round of the “Umbrellas down!” chant). Except at the point where it was at pouring the hardest (and it wasn’t actually that hard even at that point) I didn’t actually mind the rain, it gave the whole concert a sort of mystical, magical feel to it.
So, the three-hour wait for tickets, the actual ticket price, the five-month wait, the rain. It was worth it, for the most part. Now if he had only sung Covered In Rain…
PS: I don’t know why my pictures are coming up blurry. Might be because of the resizing when they get uploaded. I swear my pictures are better than this.