A few thoughts on Mayer Hawthorne’s performance at jam-packed First Avenue on Thursday:
- He – or his dad – sure had a great record collection. Echoes of countless vintage favorites can be heard in Hawthorne’s own music, including Motown, Curtis Mayfield, Philly soul, Earth Wind & Fire, Al Green, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates.
- His four-man band is road-tested tight – and Hawthorne’s a pretty fair guitarist, too.
- Liked the way he mashed up Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and his own modest hit, “The Walk.” Other highlights included the bouncy funk-pop “The Stars Are Ours” and “Her Favorite Song,” which sounded like EWF goes bossa nova.
- Liked the stage set, with a door (his current and third album is “Where Does This Door Go”) framed by a broken heart, which was lit up in various monochromatic colors – red, blue, green, pink, white – throughout the show.
- At times, Hawthorne’s sound devolved into what could be called yacht soul. You know, pleasant party that you can dance to.
- Liked when the Michigan-bred, L.A.-based singer/rapper sat down in an easy chair, his back to the crowd and then had a band member take a photo of him and the crowd. Then he stood front and center and posed for photos for fans. After which, he told everyone to put away their cellphones and enjoy the show in real time. Nicely done. And the fans were obedient.
- A concertgoer named Stephanie – who was seeing Hawthorne live for the first time but listens to him all the time at home -- came up to me after the 90-minute show and said she was a little disappointed that he didn’t sell his songs more. Indeed, he’s likable but not an exciting showman.