Mayer Hawthorne makes Michigan Theater capacity-crowd scream
A capacity crowd filled the Michigan Theater’s 1,700 seats at around noon on Thursday to see Mayer Hawthorne’s free Sonic Lunch show (which had been moved indoors because of inclement weather); but all those seats became irrelevant once the stylish, energetic Ann Arbor native took the stage.
For the audience happily stood and shimmied and sang throughout the neo-soul singer/songwriter’s polished, hour-plus set, charmed by Mayer and his four piece back-up band, The County. Dressed in identical black and white striped shirts and white pants, the band - Joe Abrams on bass, Quentin Joseph on drums, Christian Wunderlich on guitar, and Quincy McCrary on piano - often danced in unison with Hawthorne, hinting affectionately at the golden days of Motown while also being decidedly contemporary.
Snappily dressed in white pants, a navy blue blazer (with a red handkerchief) and his signature black glasses, Mayer split the set with songs from his two albums, “A Strange Arrangement” and “How Do You Do,” kicking things off with three tunes from the latter (his newest): “You Called Me,” “A Long Time,” and “Finally Falling.”
Mayer also worked in homages to other artists and songs, deftly dovetailing his song “Dreaming” with Hall and Oates’ hit, “You Make My Dreams Come True”; and leading into “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” with Lee Dorsey’s “Get Out of My Life, Woman” and a micro-shout-out to Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That.”
“We’re so excited to be playing here at the Michigan Theater,” Hawthorne told the audience (which notably featured young kids and seniors and all ages in between). “I’m glad I didn’t have to tell you guys to stand up. Lunchtime is party time where I come from.”
Hawthorne’s confidence and humor carried the show, as evidenced by the goofily appealing way he invited the crowd to take photos while he assumed deliberate, self-conscious poses, and then requested that all phones and cameras be put away so that audience members could just “be” at the concert.
Show highlights included the infectiously fun, “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’,” “The Walk” (Hawthorne’s biggest hit thus far) and the set’s closer, “Hooked,” which turned the Michigan Theater into a giant dance party. Finally, Hawthorne sealed up the concert with an encore performance of “Maybe So, Maybe No.” (And before Hawthorne took the stage, local band Lightning Love offered a well-received, 20 minute set.)
Schanel Moses of Detroit was among those who traveled to Ann Arbor to catch Hawthorne in concert for (what she estimates is) the seventh time. Fittingly - since she works for a social media agency - she learned about the Sonic Lunch show via Facebook.
“I’ve seen (Hawthorne) every time he’s been in Detroit,” said Moses. “I worked from (Ann Arbor) for a bit this morning so I could come to this. I never miss him.”
Here’s a quick glimpse of Hawthorne's performance: