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Concert Reviews:
Mayer Hawthorne delivers a soulful homecoming at the Majestic

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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DETROIT -- Mayer Hawthorne didn't exactly need the "How do you do, Detroit..." introduction on Tuesday night, May 15, at the Majestic.

The singer (real name Andrew Cohen) is from these parts, of course, raised in Ann Arbor. And he recorded much of his second album, 2011's "How Do You Do," in midtown Detroit. It's highly unlikely those connections came as news to anyone in Tuesday's sold-out crowd -- which included Kid Rock watching from the wings.

But that's part and parcel of Hawthorne's comportment. He's a gentleman, after all, dressed Tuesday in trendy glasses, sport coats and bow ties (Buddy Holly by way of the Twenty Grand) and singing about love and heartbreak, gently leading the 95-minute R&B party through singalongs, call-and-response exchanges and choreographed hand motions -- although of the latter he noted that, "I don't need to teach you all that. You're Detroit, man!"

And, good host that Hawthorne is, he poured a few cups of the titular "Henny & Gingerale," handing them out as his band, the County, jammed out the evening's closing tune.

Amidst all that, Hawthorne and the County kept a smart, tight pace, mixing upbeat rave-ups -- the opening "You Called Me," "One Track Mind," the crunchy "Love in Motion" (his collaboration with electronic artist Sebastian), "A Long Time" and the grooving "Maybe So, Maybe No" -- with falsetto-tinged paeans such as "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" and "Shiny & New." Motown was the core of many of Hawthorne's songs, particularly "Make Her Mine" and "I Wish it Would Rain," while "Dreaming's" bouncy, ELO-style pop gave way to Daryl Hall & John Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True."

And while most of the songs were at their core romantic, Hawthorne had no trouble slipping into booty call mode for the blue-eye soul of "No Strings."

A large, lighted M and H and a fluorescent broken heart gave the show a bit of production pizzazz, but it was Hawthorne's singing and the hot playing of the County -- including solo spots by keyboardist Quincy McCrary and guitarist Topher Mohr -- that made it a triumphant homecoming show, with shout-outs to Hawthorne's family and remembrances of spinning as a DJ at the nearby Northern Lights Lounge. "As long as you keep coming to see us, we'll keep coming to play for you," Hawthorne promised the Majestic crowd, and that's a he'll likely be living up to that promise for many years to come.

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