Mayer Hawthorne deviates a bit from the retro-soul formula that made him a success on his previous two albums for his new release, Where Does This Door Go. The artist’s different sound, and slightly more serious approach with Pharrell Williams as the producer, is a solid effort in its own right. And with just a few hours before the new album’s release, Hawthorne brought the celebration to New York (instead of his native urban environment of Detroit). But then again, his parents were in the audience, so it probably felt like a homecoming for Hawthorne.
The warm up act was none other than the the Roots’ drummer and DJ, Questlove, who is all over NYC these days DJing the night away. His set included a lot of classic soul tracks, some contemporary R&B and a lot more over the course of almost an hour and a half. When a brief technical glitch forced him to reboot his computer, Questlove suggested the audience turn the venue into a “live version of Facebook. Poke each other,” before thinking better of it and adding “Nah, don’t that’s sexual harassment”. He wrapped up the rest of his set (unfortunately) without incident and without anyone in the crowd screaming they’ve been poked (both fortunately).
When Hawthorne made his way onto stage, after his backup band had begun a brief jam (they weren’t called ‘The County’ as far as I could tell), he did so with a drink in hand. It became a prop to introduce the song, “Henny & Gingerale” off of his second album, How Do You Do. But not before he told the crowd, “It’s a very special night tonight. My brand new album comes out worldwide in two hours”.
Throughout the night, new songs mixed with the old. On the new side, Hawthorne threw in a few fun surprises. As the band performed “Her Favorite Song”, a surprise guest, Large Professor bounded onto stage to rhyme a few verses. At the end of the song “Crime” (one of my new favorites), the band tagged on a boisterous rendition of “Sound of Da Police” that got the crowd jumping. From his first two albums, Hawthorne pulled out his many hits including “I Wish it would Rain” teaching the audience to waggle their fingers and move their arms like the titular precipitation. “No Strings” from the second album was an early crowd pleaser in the night. But the combination of “Maybe So, Maybe No” and “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothing'” that had the crowd dancing ferociously.
All in all, Hawthorne’s impromptu “homecoming” show was a celebration that demonstrated the artist’s absorbed musical influences and showed that his new material is just as groovy as his old, even if he’s changed up the template a little bit.
Henny & Gingerale
Back Seat Lover
A Long Time
Love in Motion
Wine Glass Woman
Designer Drug w/ Poison (tease)
Get to Know You
I Wish It Would Rain
Crime / Sound of Da Police (tease)
The Stars Are Ours
Her Favorite Song (feat. Large Professor)
Maybe So, Maybe No
Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’
The Price is Right Theme
Playing Your Game, Baby
Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out
Reach Out Richard