Mayer Hawthorne Breaking Hearts, Taking Names at Webster Hall
By the time Mayer Hawthorne and the County made their way onto the stage for their intro song, a long line still snaked up East 11th full of patrons giddy to enter the sold-out show. Within a few songs into their headlining set, most everyone had gotten into the packed house, creating an electric atmosphere that practically buzzed. Loud cheers began from the moment the first chords of “Reach Out Richard” were struck which seemed to galvanize the band into a super tight rendition of the rhythmic pop gem. Sooner still came the houselights, on at full power, helping to magnify a specs-less Hawthorne so he could lead the crowd in handclaps.
Even after the clapping resided, people’s arms remained up in the air in motion, feeling out the guitar solos and grooves. At any given moment a glance up to the balcony revealed that nearly all standing beside its railing were beaming with grins. To move into the next track, Hawthorne divided the audience by gender to elicit a lively call and response before remarking that all the ladies in the house seemed tipsy. The comment wasn’t out of place given the next song turned out to be “Wine Glass Woman.” A nod to the 80s as much of his latest material is, his band stayed faithful to the recording, easing into its measured groove before reaching its apex of a slow breakdown. The retro dalliance carried on into the next song “Designer Drug” during which Hawthorne truly hit his falsetto stride. He also took the song as a cue to step out from behind his mic-stand, crossing the stage with his lead guitarist and pointing out into the crowd to cement his showman status. For a brief moment he even flirted with the classic Bell Biv DeVoe song “Poison,” bringing in a hint of its melody and lyrics for a live mashup of sorts that lasted for a few short, but crucial bars. This time, even with the houselights lowered, the synchronized handclaps continued well into the song’s final chorus.
Bathed in crystalline neon light, the five piece band charged onward and into “No Strings” from his sophomore effort How Do You Do. Accessorized with a tambourine as opposed to his sleek guitar, Hawthorne crooned through his lyrics about not needing to know the past of the object of his affection. From the crowd, a member of the audience could be heard making the comment “he got good” and it was a sentiment echoed in seemingly every note. A new confidence and polished persona, perhaps a bit more in tune to his ardent lyrics. Instead of looking like the underdog, here he is now showing off an image that proves that he can make good on exactly what he sings about. Charged with the same thunder and showmanship of Bruno Mars, from his snaps and the sway of his hips, Hawthorne seems as poised as ever to steal that Top 40 chart crown. By the song’s end he’d returned to his white electric guitar for the extended cut.
The reggae twist to the show came on strong with “Allie Jones” as he took a page from Mick Jagger’s playbook, pursing his lips and dancing around the stage. Then came his Kendrick Lamar-featuring “Crime,” and although Lamar did not appear at Webster Hall that evening, the song did evolve into a full-on medley with snippets of NWA’s “Fuck Da Police” and Super Beagle’s “Dust a Sound Boy.” More guitar-less dancing on behalf of Hawthorne elicited screams from the female contingent of the crowd, and he took to hitting the high notes once again over the sonic pulse of the accompanying guitar. Feeling the reciprocated energy, he went onto then lead the crowd in synchronized arm waving until it was at just the level of partying that the lyrics describe.
The spoken word intro of “Get to Know You” seemed only to pander to the crowd as the screams grew louder with each of his words. Making his way around the stage with deliberate steps fit for the slow jam, he patted his chest in time to mimic his heartbeat. He then returned to his spot behind the mic, to tickle the keys of the small keyboard elevated beside him on a platform complete with an owl statuette, tambourine and water bottle. The keys signified the transition to the song “I Wish It Would Rain,” from his debut album A Strange Arrangement, as plumes of fog began to drift above the crowd. During the song’s hook, “Well I wish that it would rain / Heavy rain down from the sky,” people made their fingers rain down in motion to match his. He clapped back at the audience after the song drew the loudest applause of all before asking everyone to raise their hands again. The purpose? So that he could take a photo, which he further elaborated on by singing the phrase “it’s picture time” into the mic on repeat while he snapped away. He then struck humorous poses that wouldn’t be out of place in a calendar full of hammy male models so that people could reverse the course and take iPhone photos of him.
Keeping in tune with the rest of the night, Hawthorne coupled his own track “The Walk” with a faithful, adrenaline-charged rendition of “Walk This Way,” followed by another couple of his own hits into “Corsican Rose” to close out his regular set.
In the dark, waiting for an encore, the audience barely moved a muscle except to attempt to inch closer as cheers grew louder and more fog was released by the machine. Triumphant horns announced his return before he even hit the stage again. Slowly and suavely he grooved forth towards the mic stand, proclaiming: “There’s a wrong way of doing things and there’s a very right way of doing things.” Once he successfully claimed his rightful place, it was to play the title track of his latest album, Where Does This Door Go. For the second and final song of his encore, he closed it out by going back to where it all began with his funk-centric track “The Ills,” one of his very first singles. After giving thanks to his band and crew, he led the audience in getting the proverbial dirt off their shoulders for the rest of the song, keeping in tune with its uplifting message and getting ready to continue marching on ahead.
Mayer Hawthorne @ Webster Hall 2.27.14 Setlist
Back Seat Lover
A Long time
Reach Out Richard
Wine Glass Woman
Green Eyed Love
Get To Know You
Wish It Would Rain
Walk this Way
Stars Are Ours
Where Does This Door Go