by Nickie Wang
It took more than six years for me to finally see John Mayer live in concert after buying his record in a Virgin Megastore in Abu Dhabi Mall using my first pay cheque. In 2003 I bought Mayer’s Any Given Thursday live double disc album, which was recorded during a tour in Birmingham, Alabama.
I got hooked up with the album because of the finely-written lyrics and Mayer’s undeniably soothing vocals, not to mention the genius way the Grammy-winning song-writer strums his guitar. Songs like “No Such Thing,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Why Georgia,” “83 Medley” (a cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy”), and the anthemic “You’re Body is a Wonderland” became my instant favorites.
So when the American music artist staged a concert last Friday at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds, I already had ulterior motives prior to joining thousands of his fans that flocked to the venue. First off, I wanted to compare his live performance to the one that I have been listening to throughout the years and secondly, I wanted to know if he has a significant follower in the country. I was not disappointed.
The concert was a simplified version of the one recorded in Birmingham, but it was just appropriate for his music genre—blues and acoustic rock. There was no exciting play of special effects except from the humble stage brightened alternately by yellow, blue, and purple lights. The highlight of the concert was John Mayer himself performing sixteen songs that were incredibly familiar with almost everyone who attended two-hour performance.
Amid heavy downpour, the concert pushed through and the audience didn’t leave their seats. Everyone was literally singing in the rain holding big umbrellas. Some had their raincoats on. The singer kept on complimenting the crowd for braving the inclement weather and sticking with him from start to finish.
As he consistently thanked the crowd for being “an incredible audience” Mayer treated them with a sustained energy, which everyone deserved (because for sure some of them will have colds or fever the next day). From the opening songs “Vultures” and “No Such Thing,” the artist was able to draw everyone’s attention. Call them diehard fans but to actually scream from the top of their lungs and sing along with him simply explains how big his fan base in the country is. These people waited for five months just to see him live. The one-night only concert was originally scheduled in May but was moved in October due to Mayer’s hectic schedule.
Mayer performed random selections from the albums that he has released so far. Songs like “Gravity,” “Your Body is a Wonderland,” “Waiting on the World to Change,” “Heartbreak Warfare,” and his cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” were the most received numbers.
The concert made me wonder why concertgoers could stand being soaked under the rain and still enjoy a show such as this one. I myself stayed just like any other not just because it was a good entertainment but it’s a kind of performance Filipinos don’t usually experience in concert featuring local artists. Mayer performs original material, has incredible stage presence, knows how to connect with the audience, and discourages drama just to get people’s attention—characteristics that our local performers obviously lack.
B-boying with Park
Another foreign act is here in the country over the weekend to promote an EP entitled Count On Me. Jay Park, 23, is a Korean singer best remembered as the leader of the K-pop group called 2 PM.
Apart from promoting an EP, his visit to Manila included his first ever Fan Meet Tour that took place last Sunday at the SMX Convention Center. He was joined by the dance crew Art of Movement, which includes three Filipino Americans b-boys (break-dancers).
“I’ve been with the crew since 2002 when most of us were still in middle school and high school, and one of us was still in his diapers,” quipped the South Korean singer and rapper whose cover version of B.o.B.’s “Nothing On You” went viral on Youtube when he uploaded it on his personal channel.
Early this year, the young singer-rapper who also introduces himself as a b-boy, got involved in an Internet controversy that forced him to leave 2 PM. In the last quarter of 2009, articles surfaced the Internet exposing disparaging comments he wrote on his My Space account. Based on the screenshots, Park was complaining about his life in Korea while training for the band.
“Everything was totally new for me, I didn’t know the people…I didn’t understand them because my Korean was not yet polished then,” he said.
Park was brought to Korea in 2004 to enhance his singing skills and improved his Korean. He was initially groomed to be a solo artist but an opportunity came to be part of a boy band that would later become one of South Korea’s biggest selling groups.
“But I have nothing towards them (his former band mates) but love. Although I don’t have any communication with them I’m still looking forward to meeting them again,” he furthered.
Park’s newfound fame came unplanned. He said that opportunity suddenly popped up and he is just taking this chance to resurface on the music scene. With a renewed energy to delight fans, Park is set to go back to Los Angeles, where he is currently based, to work on a new material and hopes to collaborate with some big names in music including pop sensation Charice. Park lists Eminem, Michael Jackson, Usher, Tupac, and Jay-Z as his major influences.
Being a solo artist opens new possibilities and opportunities in his career so he emphasized that he has to work double time because performing solo and being in group are two different things.
“It’s pretty hard to sing and dance the whole three minutes compared to being just a member wherein you will just sing a few lines and then go back to your dance routines,” he ended.