Mayer Hawthorne has built a reputation for neo-soul crooning on the heels of his first two albums A Strange Arrangement (2010) and How Do You Do (2011), but this year’s Where Does This Door Go added a new dimension to his repertoire.
Collaborating with the likes of Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar will do that for an artist, as will the steady dose of funk, pop and hip-hop that Hawthorne delivered on This Door.
The Michigan-bred, L.A.-based Hawthorne certainly embraced his growth over the weekend at a charismatic performance at the Hollywood Palladium.
First, though, came Danish electro-soul merchants Quadron. Led by the mesmerizing voice and glittering gold dress of Coco O, the group kicked out a mix of slow jams – like a cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” – and clap-along party gems like “Hey Love.”
As for Hawthorne, the trademark falsetto is still intact, if not as strong as ever. Gone are the black frames he used to wear so often.
Wearing a dapper slim-fitting suit, Hawthorne turned up the swagger early, pulling out the new Steely Dan-drenched “Back Seat Lover” two songs in. Hawthorne worked the stage and the crowd, which sang the catchy “Private Eyes”-esque refrain up to the rafters. It continued with his fourth offering, the hip-hop hit “Wine Glass Woman,” a banger that had everyone bouncing his or her head in approval.
Hawthorne also led a few dance parties throughout his showcase especially with the sultry “No Strings” and unrelenting groove of “The Innocent,” not to mention a tease of Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” at one point.
As Hawthorne does with every show, he brought out a lounge chair midway through the set and asked the crowd to join him in a picture as the notes of “Get to Know You” were still ringing in the ears of many. Tag yourself on his website, people.
Other highlights included an Aerosmith tease of “Walk This Way” before Hawthorne’s own “The Walk” and the teenage dream of “The Stars Are Ours,” which features a soaring chorus of “Now the stars are ours tonight / We’ll worry ’bout tomorrow when the sun starts shining bright / Then we’ll sleep.”
Following a raucous finale of “The Ills,” which comes off Strange Arrangement, Hawthorne came out with a two-song encore, leaving on the punchy bass line of “Her Favorite Song.”
And that rumbling low end was a fitting way to end the evening. His Motown roots are always welcome, but Hawthorne’s expanded, grittier sound played superbly to a live audience.
For more information, visit Hawthorne’s official Facebook page.