These days John Mayer is more famous for making headlines than playing guitar. It’s a sad state of affairs, but one he seems to be taking on the chin these days. On Saturday night he reminded us of the skills that made him famous when he played the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

I considered writing that Orianthi warmed up the stage, but then I realised that didn’t really tell the story of her opening set. There’s no denying this young Aussie’s talent. She’s impressing all the right people with her incredible skills with an axe. But as a front woman, I’m just not sure she cuts it. There was something very rehearsed and polished about her set, almost like rock and roll by numbers. Even her seemingly off the cuff remarks to the audience between songs sounded as if they were read from a script. Walking off stage at the end of her final number, without even giving the crowd a backwards glance, was the straw the broke the camel’s back for me. It might have been a rock and roll move, but she’s just not big enough to pull such a stunt.

In contrast, John Mayer was warm and gracious as he took to the stage. He gave us a set with equal measures of hits and new material from his Battle Studies album. Both modes of songs seemed to go down a treat; this was an audience of fans who own everything that man does and lap it up accordingly. This showed when John pulled out “In Your Atmosphere” a live favourite that has never made an appearance on a studio album. You wouldn’t have known it though as the crowd sang along enthusiastically to every word.

After seeing Spandau Ballet play the same venue weeks ago, it struck me that this was a very low-key performance. There were no big screens, no costume changes save him taking off his shirt, and no light-show trickery. But that’s exactly what I loved; without all the distractions we focused on the heart of the music. Just as he was at last year’s showcase, John seemed so appreciative of this, thanking us repeatedly for making him feel so at home.

I’m thrilled John Mayer feels so comfortable playing for us in Sydney, as it means we can look forward to many nights of live music just like this. And as anyone who was there can attest, this is a very good thing.

Image source: Lauren Katulka