Winter is coming. And as rain was drizzling, and the night was cold, a temporary escape back to summer, even just for a few hours was waiting, as we lined up in front of the Commodore Ballroom this past Tuesday night. The sunshine-filled escape was Mayer Hawthorne. His breezy, warm, Motown-inspired songs came to be the transportation from Vancouver to California, that Vancouverites perpetually long for. Song after song of love and romance, with a big ol’ neon, broken heart backdrop, Hawthorne’s steady, soprano vocals, and red suit (complete with bow-tie) created a scene that was decidedly escapist. In fact, I think for the next tour, Hawthorne should have blow-up palm trees, fairy lights, and balloons on-stage and in-crowd.
Jonathan Franzen recently wrote about our generation (the ones raised by MTV and Sesame Street) in his latest book “Freedom.” Through the eyes of music loving, middle-aged ex-protestors of ‘the man’ and ‘the system,’ he describes us: “They [the younger crowd at a concert the two older characters go to] gathered not in anger but in celebration of their having found, as a generation, a gentler and more respectful way of being. A way, not incidentally, more in harmony with consuming.” This, and the entire scene in the book, could have been based on Hawthorne’s concert. The crowd was excited, but calm; drinking, but not drunk; bopping, but not dancing. We were – simply – content. This was despite Hawthorne act of yelling “party people in the front,” and this “isn’t a concert; it’s a show.” But his lukewarm songs, while heart-felt and dreamy, barely got the crowd passed their initial ‘we’re here!’ buzz, and few had a danceable beat. Perhaps, he was just a little tired.
Except for his bizarre outbursts and declarations of party-mode, Hawthorne was charismatic, in a self-indulgent, foppish, endearing sort of way. With his scrunched up face, hipster glasses, and sincere countenance – he’s the type of guy your dad would be trust with taking you to the prom. He’s even okay with photo-ops. In an attempt to get people to be ‘present’ and not hidden behind their cameras, Hawthorne told everyone to get out their cameras, and posed on-stage for a couple minutes. So now, everyone can have the exact same photo from the concert (but hey, don’t all concert phone-photos look the same anyway?). It was adorable, actually, but I guess I’m just looking for the concert that will make me forget that I have a phone.
Making the concert drift further down the heat scale towards lukewarm was the lack of improvisation and solos from the band and Hawthorne himself. While the keyboardist had a bit of a riot a couple times, Mayer and the rest of the band kept it pretty chill. So, if you are a fan of Hawthorne, it is worth seeing him in concert, as he ‘meets all requirements’ (and his voice really is great), but he does not yet ‘exceed expectations’. Thus if you aren’t already a fan, you probably won’t be by the end of the concert.