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Mayer Hawthorne and the County in Chicago
Mayer Hawthorne and the County
Mayer Hawthorne’s career revolves around his status as an unlikely heartthrob. The Ann Arbor, Michigan native’s unassuming features and penchant for wearing tailored blazers and horn-rimmed glasses make him look like a perpetual prom date. Even the faux hawk he sported at Chicago’s intimate Park West failed to give him much of an edge.
As long as he keeps his mouth shut, fathers needn’t beware fear for their daughters. But, if they became privy to his buttery Curtis Mayfield croon, those pretty young things would never see the outside of a convent.
Hawthorne doesn’t need to liquor a girl up to find out the color of her panties. He just has to slide up next to her and reveal his Motown-ready falsetto. And the County is the perfect four-man vehicle to aid in his conquests.
The 33-year-old throwback tours by a mantra that promises not a concert, but a “show.” He outfitted the stage with an embossed leather chair with brass nailheads like one found sandwiched between a ceiling-high bookshelf and roaring fireplace, along with a bobblehead fashioned from his likeness. A giant “M” and “H” outfitted in megawatt bulbs flanked a neon red heart cracked down the middle. He wasn’t kidding when he told the sold-out Windy City crowd at the start of the 90-minute romp, “if you didn’t come to party, I don’t know what you’re doing here,” but he didn’t pretend everyone would come out emotionally unscathed.
The swinging ’60s jaunt of “One Track Mind” should play in the background of one of Don Draper’s famous liquid pitch dinners, while the gospel-infused “Hooked” demanded a paternity test from the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).” Always one to lighten the blow, Hawthorne drenched the venom oozing out of his bouncing kiss-off, “The Walk” in honey and culled the Chi-Lites’ most sincere harmonizing for the breakup song with the bedroom eyes, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out.”
“Green Eyed Love” let guitarist Christian Wunderlich and bassist Joe Abrams exorcise their rock demons with a showdown worthy of a “Celebrity Deathmatch” between Jack White and Flea. Wunderlich’s six-string attack proved Hawthorne’s two releases (2011’s How Do You Do and 2009’s A Strange Arrangement ) could benefit from a shot of adrenaline.
Retro remained king as the booty-scootin’ frontman schooled the shoegazers on how to execute the Errol Flynn during “A Long Time,” after paying tribute to those purveyors of blue-eyed soul, Hall & Oates with a snappy cover of “You Make My Dreams.”
During the encore, an enthusiastic roadie brought out red and blue Solo cups, a can of ginger ale and a half-empty bottle of cognac for the band to indulge in a nightcap before closing with the classy drinking anthem, “Henny & Gingerale.” Ever the gentlemen, Hawthorne poured one for a damsel upfront.
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