All photos by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Mayer Hawthorne brought his contemporary soul sound to Philadelphia’s Union Transfer Tuesday night in support of his latest record, Where Does This Door Go. Hawthorne’s killer songwriting and ultra-tight band yielded an audience that was surprisingly considerable and not as surprisingly diverse for a weeknight. His ability to construct one song after another that I fail to get out of my head for days on end made the trip completely worth it to me, and numerous other music fans alike. The versatility of his compositional talent, his voice and his band make his concert an impressively complete experience.
I suppose it should not have come as a surprise that Mayer Hawthorne and his band, The County, are true showmen, though I can’t quite say that the spectacle aspect added tremendously to my experience (nor did it subtract from it, I should add). Not only did he and his band line-dance in unison when opening the set with “Physicality” (a song found only as a bonus track on the 12″ Vinyl LP of Where Does This Door Go), but Hawthorne himself poured a few drinks for a few fans at the beginning of “Henny & Gingerale” (I think it goes without saying what kind of drinks he poured). If you take a look at the setlist, you’ll notice he played a lot of music, a solid proportion of which came off the most recent album (which, alone, has a lot of music on it). I thought the song selection was good, but I have more of a soft spot for Hawthorne’s falsetto on tracks like “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” and during the chorus of “All Better”; his voice seems to me better suited to his more soulful work and that showed live.
Of the songs he did play, however, I found “Back Seat Lover” and “The Stars are Ours”, two songs that channel the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire and Steely Dan respectively, to click the most successfully. If I had any complaints, it would be that I had a good bit of trouble hearing Hawthorne’s voice, though I was behind the front-of-house speakers (facing the audience). What I couldn’t hear, however, was made up for by the sheer pleasure emanating from Mayer Hawthorne’s face and body.
Joining Mayer Hawthorne was Superhumanoids, whose quirky charm and electronic sound seemed to hit the right notes amongst crowd members. While I’d call them more prog than soul, I could still appreciate the driving rhythms and all but overly complicated use of guitar pedals as an hors d’oeuvre to Hawthorne and his band.