Review – Mayer Hawthorne at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Oct 23 2012
– by Brendan Fairweather
There is no better word than “eclectic” to describe Mayer Hawthorne’s music, style and fanbase.
On Tuesday night at the Commodore Ballroom, he came out dressed in a red fitted tuxedo, black-rimmed glasses and a pair of Air Jordans, and then proceeded to play a mixture of soul, funk, and R&B fans ranging in age from 18 to 65.
Before he began, Mayer announced to the crowd he wasn’t here for a concert, but to put on a show. He urged anyone who wasn’t there to have a good time to please leave, because the night was all about having fun. Then, backed by his four-piece band the County – including bass, guitar, keys and drums – Hawthorne led the audience through an hour-and-a-half of upbeat dance tracks and smooth ballads.
Much of Hawthorne’s music draws heavily from the Motown sounds created in his native state of Michigan. At times the show felt like a bit of a time warp as, looking like a colorful new-school version of Buddy Holly, he crooned in front of a brightly illuminated “M” and “H”. A student of music from another era, Hawthorne has an Air Jordan in the present. At one point he sat down and sang a rendition of the Frank Sinatra signature tune “I’ve Got a Crush on You”, and at another he was shouting out J-Dilla and singing over one of the legendary hip-hop producer’s beats.
Mayer played to the crowd for most of the night, teaching corny dance moves, and even stopping the show for “picture time” as he posed for the audience so they could get it out of their system and focus on the rest of the show, instead of watching through the lens. This nerdy attitude is a large part of his appeal. He seems grounded in the unique niche he’s established for himself as a classic crooning gentleman with a modern hue.
Mayer and the County played songs from both 2009’s A Strange Arrangement as well as 2011’s How Do You Do, but fans seemed to get especially excited for tracks from the former. Nearly everyone seemed to recite every lyric to tracks like “Maybe So, Maybe No”, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”, and “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’”.
As the night concluded with the funk-heavy “Henny and Gingerale”, Mayer poured all the members of his band, and one lucky fan in the front row, the same drink. A well deserved one after a thoroughly fun show, just as he had promised.