Concert Review: Mayer Hawthorne in Vancouver at the Imperial
The lights dimmed to loud screams. The crowd gathered on the lower level of the Imperial as the band walked out. The music started with beat boxing and a kick drum. Funky bass came in. A vocal sample introduced the man of the hour. The song continued to build with guitar and piano. A cute back up singer was dancing.
Wearing a fedora, Mayer Hawthorne took a sip of liquor, stood up and sang “Breakfast In Bed” in his signature falsetto. The band wore matching suits. “How’s everybody feeling tonight?” asked Hawthorne. “My name is Mayer Hawthorne. Welcome to the Mayer Hawthorne show.”
It was a night with a lot of crowd involvement. The involvement started with the crowd singing “backseat lover” and “na na na na na nana.” Mayer Hawthorne, born Andrew Mayer Cohen, sang to a female fan as if she was the only one there. His bass player had a floppy afro. Playing straight in to the next song, Cohen picked up a sunburst Fender Stratocaster.
An instrumental breakdown blended in to the reggae grooves of “Fancy Clothes”. I looked left and saw people singing along. The song ended with a guitar solo. Early in the set, the band didn’t leave a whole lot of room for cheers between songs.
Hawthorne got everybody to put a fist up in the air for the next one. A lady in front of me was dancing and waving around one of her crutches. Cohen put down his guitar and picked up drum sticks to play a drum pad. More falsetto. After showing off his drumming ability, he threw his sticks in to the crowd.
Mayer dedicated the next two songs to the people with a special some one and to the people single and ready to mingle. The latter, “No Strings,” was a sing along, a clap along, and a two step along. I heard sounds of g funk. Hawthorne shouted out Tyler Cash on the keys.
The band jammed as Mayer Hawthorne and his back up singer left backstage. They returned for an upbeat track. Scanning the crowd, I noticed as I got closer the stage I saw more dancing. “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’” was met with loud applause. “Oh you want the old Mayer Hawthorne? Some shit from How Do You Do?” asked Mayer.
He listed three tracks for his second album. “I wanna do em James brown on cocaine fast,” he said. He combined them in to a medley, playing them in quick succession. It was like playing a 33rpm record at a 45rpm speed but without the chipmunk vocals.
“Get You Back” was my personal favourite up to that point. Looking around I think others felt the same – mid song whistles confirmed it. Mayer Hathorne is a powerful vocalist. There are few notes this man can’t hit.
Hawthorne is a transplant from the 70s soul era. He is four albums in and showing no signs of slowing down. On “I Wish It Would Rain”, the whole band sang back up. “I need both hands in the sky for this one,” said Mayer Hawthorne. The crowd raised their hands and made jazz hands rain down.
Hawthorne listed his band members. Miss Jimmy James sang back up. Joseph Abrams played bass; Quentin Joseph played the drums; and Christiano played the guitar. Each member did a short solo. The band leader ended the song with a G funk solo on a small midi keyboard.
It was cool hearing the crowd react to the starts of songs that everybody recognized. “The Walk” was another crowd favourite. It had the most people singing along all night. The second half of the set featured no downturns. People jumped with their hands up.
“Good night Vancouver” was met with stomping feet, whistles and claps then a chant for one more song. I hoped it would be more than one. Without much prodding the band returned. Moments later, Hawthorne returned as well – this time without his suit jacket.
The encore started slower than the set ended. A spacy synth accompanied the band on “Cosmic Love”, a standout on his latest album, A Man About Town. Cohen let his backup singer take some glory on the bridge. She showed off her voice; it was the same voice that provided a strong backing during the rest of the show.
Mayer Hawthorne’s live show builds on the recorded version of his music. The set was tight and well rehearsed. Hawthorne shouted out the band and the clear spattered vinyl at the merch table. Luckily he had time for one more.
The Mayer Hawthorne show concluded with a cover of Tears For Fears “Everybody Want to Rule The World”. Mayer Hawthorne and his band made it their own. I preferred their version to the original. He thanked his Vancouver fans once again and said good night. The band played him off. Hawthorne high fived the front row and left back stage.
As they left the building, everybody sang and danced to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” . Unfortunately we couldn’t stay together any longer but it capped the night off just right.
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