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Mayer Hawthorne swoons sold-out crowd in Oakland

Mayer HawthornePhotos by Kory Thibeault // Written by Kevin Raos //

Mayer Hawthorne with Quadron, Gavin Turek //
Fox Theater – Oakland
February 1st, 2013 //

The Fox Theater was the place to be in Oakland on Saturday night. Those lucky enough to have tickets to this sold out show were ready to groove to Mayer Hawthorne’s slick style of suit & tie neo-soul. It was the rapper-gone-soul-singer’s first trip to Oakland and he assured the adoring audience that it would not be his last.

Before the party got started, the crowd was offered a tasty treat that few probably saw coming, Quadron. Quadron is a Danish indie electro pop duo that has been making headlines with their 2013 album Avalanche. Quadron consists of vocalist Coco O and musician/producer Rodin Hannibal, who is also closely associated with the acclaimed group Rhye. The crowd was stunned by the immense power of singer Coco O’s voice, pausing from their mixed drinks and conversations with friends to turn towards the hypnotic performance on stage. Keep an eye and ear on this duo.

I had a few questions going in to the show, as this was my first soirée with Mr. Hawthorne. Would there be a full band? Would he play actual instruments, or would he DJ? Would he rap? How cheesy will it be? Well the answer is a little of all the above. Low expectations can lead to great experiences, but even if I did have any expectations Mayer Hawthorne, and his band he sometimes refers to as “The County”, surely would have exceeded them. Mayer Hawthorne proved to be a polished showman with musical talent that spans many genres, demonstrating an ability to not only swoon the crowd with his trademark soulful singing, but also his proficiency on a multitude of instruments.

There was a little of everything on Saturday night, from soul to rock to hip hop to reggae, music-lovers of all varieties would find an appealing morsel to munch on. This was easily the most diverse crowd I’ve seen at the Fox Theater. They were extremely well-dressed, lubricated and ready to party, and Hawthorne didn’t hesitate to get them involved. “Are you ready to have the greatest night of your life?” he asked after the “Physicality” opener, and during “Back Seat Lover” he pulled out the tambourine and invoked a call-and-response from the crowd. After just three songs Hawthorne commented that his hands were already bleeding.

After a honeymoon period of 4 or 5 songs, the crowd began to settle in to a groove for what I thought was the highlight segment of the show. A Hawthorne drum solo kicked off “Designer Drug” which segued into the Bell Biv DeVoe’s 90’s R&B classic “Poison”. Obviously the crowd thought this was incredible. Next was “No Strings” which featured a soaring synthesizer solo by keyboardist Quincy McCracy, a clear highlight as the music, lights and crowd completely jelled in one cohesive unit. The musical talents of the rest of his band continued to shine during “Green Eye Love” with a slap-tastic bass solo to start followed by a ripping guitar solo to close out the tune.

Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne appealed to the medical nature of Oakland by slowing it down with “Allie Jones”, a reggae number off his new album Where Does This Door Go, which was asserted by another spacey synth lead. The Oakland crowd ate up a rendition of “Fuck the Police” intertwined with his original song “Crime”, complete with sirens and strobe lights.

Throughout the night Mayer Hawthorne’s hip-hop side would appear in glimpses, but perhaps the most prominent display of his alternate musical ego came when with a cover of Aerosmith’s rap-rock anthem “Walk This Way”. Mayer played guitar and rapped a couple verses before the band kicked into their radio hit “The Walk”, which he dedicated to his “bitch ex-girlfriend.”

Another clear highlight, and one of my favorite Mayer Hawthorne tunes, came late in the set with “Corsican Rosé”. This infectious beat accented a very enjoyable set filled with what Mayer Hawthorne does best, a little of everything. Mayer Hawthorne may have found success with his neo-soul side but he will always stay true to his hip-hop roots. The marriage of both influences create a very diverse sound that throws back to the cigar smoke-filled lounges with Dean Martin all the way to the modern day suit & tie stylings of Justin Timberlake. Mayer Hawthorne walks a thin line between retro soul and modern hip hop as is evidenced by his outfit on Saturday night, a sport coat and sneakers.

Admittedly, this was my first time seeing Mayer Hawthorne, so I had no idea what I was getting in to. Going into the show I knew very little about Mayer Hawthorne, other than what I had heard on the radio (I.e. “The Walk” dozens upon dozens of times).

I knew I was in for a show, but not to which caliber, and although he is not Dean Martin or Justin Timberlake, he was still very impressive. Mayer Hawthorne had a charm about him that was genuine without being smug. His musical talent is apparent, blending genres old and modern to create something delightful. Although the $100 scalpers were charging outside might have been a little too steep, Mayer Hawthorne is still a surefire dance party that everyone can boogie down to.

Setlist:
Physicality
Back Seat Lover
Reach Out Richard (might not be 100%)
Wine Glass Woman
Designer Drug (with POISON)
No Strings
The Innocent
Green Eye Love
Allie Jones
Crime
Get to Know You
Do It
Walk this Way > The Walk
The Stars Are Ours
Corsican Rose
Where Does This Door Go
The Ills

Encore:
Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out
Her Favorite Song

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