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Mayer Hawthorne is the most unassuming guy in the room. While the openers Buff 1 and 14k were on stage, Mr. Hawthorne sat quietly in the back, observing the sold-out crowd at Washington’s DC9. With his vintage 50s ERA frames and a build that looks a bit too much like Brendan Frasier, he’s the last person that you would imaging fronting a soul revue, but once he gets on stage all doubts about who Mayer Hawthorne is are cast aside.
Mayer Hawthorne is best experienced live. Even if you are on the fence about his album, his performance will most certainly win you over . When Mayer comes on stage, the sleepy, almost low-key vibe of his A Strange Arrangement, comes to life. Much of the credit for this goes to Mayer’s amazing band, The County, which is comprised of musicians from LA and his hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. When I talked to Mayer a few days before the show he told me that “I had all the money in the world and I could get anybody I wanted to, these guys would be the people I would select.” No kidding. The band’s tight arrangements were the key to the performance.
Mayer’s set included tracks from his debut album with a few surprises. The singles “It Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out,” and “Maybe So, Maybe No” got the crowd moving, but the breakout performance however, came my favorite song “Green Eyed Love,” and the breathtaking “I Wish It Would Rain,” where the “Rain Down” break saw the whole room mimicking Mayer’s rain gesture with their hands. The performance was topped off with a surprise rendition of Slum Village’s “Fall In Love,” for the 10% of the audience who knew of Dilla’s existence and the significance he had in the Michigan area.
Speaking of the crowd, they were fixated on Mayer the whole time. Forget the nerdy attire, Mayer has huge stage presence, and kept the people moving and hype up until past the encore. His bits between songs got the girls swooning, and of course he had to bring the most beautiful girl in the room up on stage for “Make Her Mine.” To the victor goes the spoils.
You can tell that the people at Stone’s Throw went to great lengths to create an entertaining show. The venues for this tour were under booked to give it that “soul revue” type of style, making the whole experience a lot more intimate than his previous stint at 9:30 club. Mayer put on one of the best shows I’ve seen all year, and many artists need to take note from Mayer (and old school Motown in general) on how to put on a entertaining, and crowd pleasing soul revue.