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Any Given Thursday
Artist: John Mayer
Length: Disc 1 (8 tracks 46:55) Disc 2 (7 tracks 55:26)
Skepticism. A sigh. That's my usual response to seeing an artist I respect putting out a live album, especially only after the release of one major album. Live albums can be either a great thing, or lengthy medley of tunes which leave you just wishing you would have listened to the studio recording. So the verdict on the John Mayer? He has managed to sneak out two relatively exciting discs of live material from a set in Birmingham, AL. The weakness of the album definitely finds itself in the problem of relying heavily upon one album of material. A live album can have a great power in merging an artist's catalog of material into one feeling, but this album just pretty much rehashes Room for Squares in ten out of the fifteen songs coming from that album. The album also contains three older songs, and one cover of the Police's "Message in a Bottle." The strengths? Definitely a new feel for the material in that album. It could be a few years of performances which have changed Mayer's voice into a more raspy version, or Room for Squares could have been rigorously doctored to clean up his voice, either way the voice we find here is drastically changed. This change could be considered bad or good, I find it a unique voice which Mayer uses very well which can really grow on you. It is also just an interesting contrast to the voice on Room for Squares
Another definite strength is that the disc shows off some of Mayer's ability which you don't get anywhere else. Many of the tracks are very long, and contain some great guitar solos, which happen to be a big strength of his. Many times these guitar solos are extremely reminiscent to Mayer's guitar hero Stevie Ray Vaughan. The album also contains a few interesting moments of Mayer talking to the audience. To introduce "Your Body is a Wonderland," he decrees this is a song about girly parts . At the beginning of "No Such Thing," there is a quote which is humorous just in it's nonsense "I love you too, coordinated ladies." A really great example of this adding a lot to the songs though is before "Back to You," as the opening guitar riff starts to play quietly, John really conveys the passion of this song as he confesses This is a song about not giving up, about 8th and 9th chances, and probably chances into the double digits. After a few seconds of quiet, the band tears fully into the song, followed by a passionate performance from John on his song about not giving up an old love as he laments "Yeah I'm so good at forgetting, I quit every game I play, but forgive me love, I can't turn and walk away, not this way." The set then shifts into my favorite of John Mayer songs "City Love," which takes the song to another level in energy, but doesn't quite live up to the beauty of the production in the studio version. One of the great non- RFS tracks is definitely "Man on the Side." This song is a great taste of white boy soul, with a great introduction containing a short cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Lenny." The other cover "Message in a Bottle" is solid, although toned down. Disc one closes with a energetic and joyful rendition of "Love Song for No One" with a great sing-a-long with the audience to close the disc.
The second disc begins with "Why Georgia?," and also has a great section of audience participation. "Your Body is a Wonderland" is a much more free flowing than the studio version and the better for it. "83" contains some really cool 80's covers by Mayer at the end including "Let's Hear it for the Boy" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." "Comfortable" makes a good addition to the album. This is a cult favorite about pining for an old flame, which has some really clever lyrics like "She says the Bible is the only book she reads, she would rather I didn't use profanity. Your mouth was so dirty." The album closes on "Neon" which is drug out very long, with mixed effect.
Any Given Thursday has some great moments and is very cohesive, but it suffers most from length and having all the tracks sound similar after it 's all said and done. If you re a big Mayer fan or wish to relive seeing him in concert, this album is a great (though not essential) one to own. If not, and you are interested in Mayer, I would definitely recommend starting with Room for Squares. It will stay with you a little longer than this collection which, though engaging, probably won't garner a lot of time in my cd player this year.
Matt Kilgore 3/25/2003