Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to see John Mayer’s current tour at Van Andel Arena and I was even luckier to go for free. Lorde knows I love free things, especially in the concert ticket variety. I’ve been trying to convince people to just give me concert tickets continuously, but unfortunately these people need “credentials” to consider me a valid blogger. Pssh.
I brought Ariel along for the ride since she’s a big Johnny fan and I’m only a dabbler. I had seen him once before with a friend whose obsession rivals mine with any boyband, but I didn’t remember much from the show other than that he likes to gyrate a bit and I fell in love with his tattoo sleeve. I was eager to experience the show and was appropriately tipsy to deal with the typical “upper bowl” crowd without getting angry. We made our way to section 223 and I wriggled into the ridiculously tiny seat to settle in for the show.
A few minutes in, I realized I had better leave myself breadcrumbs or the little explosions of wit would never make it until morning (or several days later, as is now the case). I started texting myself notes throughout the show and they began with the fact that his stage presence gave me a reason to be jealous of Katy Perry and their personal life. He doesn’t smoothly grind on his guitar like one might imagine. It isn’t the overtly masculine gyrations of Magic Mike or Donnie Wahlberg. It’s sort of clunky, awkward and all too real. He literally makes love to his guitar. Er…literally dry humps it, anyway. And I was totally fine with it.
Through all of the talk of John’s personal life, his general dickery and the fact that he hates A-list celebrities, it sort of gets lost that he’s an amazing artist. The same can be said for Lady Gaga, but that’s a post for a different day. John is one of those performers we take for granted now, and then 50 years from now they’ll speak about him in the same vein as Frank Sinatra and Elvis. I promise. He scats. I mean…he just stops, feels the music and scats. And it wasn’t even funny. It was magical. Usually I get uncomfortable when people ad lib in that way but I was enamored all over again. My text to myself read: “Oh dear god, he’s scatting. He has scatted.” Clearly I was affected. He also had two guitars hanging from his deliciously tall body at one point and actually played BOTH of them. He played one as you might imagine and then reached behind his back and played the other one WHILE IT WAS BEHIND HIS BACK. He also blew that snarky breath into a harmonica for a while and I didn’t hate it. I think I love him.
For a minute during his set he morphed into Enya, but in the least uh…woodland fairy way you could imagine. Everything was very sort of ethereal without being pretentious. That’s one thing you can always count on with ol’ Johnny, a lack of pretense. His backdrop had me waiting on the edge of my seat for cloud-Mufasa to appear and tell me I was (or wasn’t) taking the right path in life. Or who my father is. Something earth-shattering, anyway. There were shooting stars, there was snow. It was beautiful and it helped take the focus off some of those childbirth faces he makes. Although, I think the faces lend a theatricality you normally wouldn’t get from a simple singer/songwriter set.
As they tend to do in large venue shows, the cameramen spent a lot of time focusing on John’s hands as he ever-so-skillfully tickled his lucky, lucky guitar. I couldn’t help but notice that one of those hands was scabbed at the knuckles and after that I could hardly pull my focus from the loop of hypothetical scenarios in my head. Was it a skateboarding accident? Does he skateboard? Why did I just leap right to skateboarding? Did he punch a wall? Please tell me he punched a wall in a fit of hyper-masculinity. That would be so hot. I need to know what happened to his knuckles. But only if it was something cool and Patrick Swayze.
I assume everyone else in the arena was wondering about the knuckles as well. There’s something so intimate about being in a venue that size with a few thousand others who share that common interest. In John Mayer as a whole, not just his knuckles. Although, I suppose that would be fine too. In looking around, however, I noticed that most of the people around me had made some terrible decisions in life regarding style and life partners. Some had made the decision to be the only one standing up in the entire upper section, and happened to be standing directly in front of me. So they make questionable choices otherwise, but the music we share.
We also seemingly share the same opinion on “Your Body is a Wonderland”. There’s a nostalgia for it, you know the words to it (most of it) and you revel in the familiarity. But you’re also kind of sick of it. So is John. He started playing it and then stopped to laugh, saying he felt it was totally fine to like the song again now. In his words, “It started out new, then it was dumb, and now it’s retro.” Thus is life.
My texts to myself got a little harder to decipher as the night went on, but I did get that I was the perfect amount of buzzed to celebrate the magic realization that John Mayer was singing his hand-selected songs to me (and a few thousand others). The final text to myself from the evening said: “The big screen is showing him in sepia tones and for some reason this is everything.”
And it was.