Since I first heard A Strange Arrangement towards the end of last year Mayer Hawthorne has pretty much been on constant repeat; in the car, on the iPod, in the bedroom, his tunes have provided a soundtrack to the last nine months or so, so catching him live in London Town was not to scoffed at.
The former hip-hop DJ/producer turned purveyor of heavily Mowtown influenced soul (see Plan B’s not the only one) is a rather strange looking fella, kinda like a hip-hop version of Michael Bubble complete with standard issue tailored suit and black skinny tie (and he looks like a spitting image of that dude from Heroes!).
His band, in matching white shirts took the stage and out popped a Mayer Hawthorne looking identical to the CD cover with a little glint in his eye that gave away the fun that was to be had this evening. The show kicked off with real pace; Maybe So, Maybe No, One Track Mind, Make Her Mine, I Wish It Would Rain (complete with crowd participatory raindrop creation). During a relentless 25 minutes pretty much all the bangers were played and it seemed like he had nowhere to go…
…then he went and sang Fly or Die by N*E*R*D better than I’ve ever heard Pharrell & Co. sing it themselves! For a soul band they really rocked out on it taking the show up to top gear when everyone was merrily jamming in third.
Mayer definitely likes playing with crowd and encourages crowd participation – not in a clichéd way however, more in a demanding way and you feel like a bit of a dunce if you don’t join in. The mixture of full-on fans who knew every word to every song and curious newbies made for a nice vibe, pockets of random excitement encased by seas calm bopping.
After an extremely elongated rendition of Love Is Alright, The Ills made the night. For me the song was almost therapeutic, the energy flowing through it let me (if for only a minute) wash away all the stresses and troubles from a pretty tough past six weeks – the words resonating even more than they ever have, giving the song new meaning.
After teasing with talk of Rock, Jazz and even DubStep it would have been nice to see Mayer and the band remix one of the album tracks for the show and whilst sounding good, sometimes it sounded a little too polished; more Lionel Ritchie than Curtis Mayfield.
He closed out with a cover of the Isley Brothers Work To Do, which was very fitting because Mayer Hawthorne definitely put in a good shift on Tuesday night. If he would have played A Strange Arrangement (easily the best song on the album) it would have been a great shift (maybe shift of the year so far)… however for not doing so I think I might go abuse him on twitter… damn Michael Bubble Heroes look-a-like poor man’s Plan B mother f****r!!!