Mayer Hawthorne and the County treated the city of Atlanta to their brand of Motown soul music on May 11th, for part of their How Do You Do World Tour. Variety Playhouse, which bills itself as “Atlanta’s best concert venue,” hosted the event. I’ve seen a number of independent acts there since I’ve lived in Atlanta. Its acoustics are pretty decent and it holds about 1,000 when filled to capacity.

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I went with my brother since he is also a Mayer Hawthorne fan. We met some of the attendees before the show and a decent number of them were originally from Mayer’s home state of Michigan (including us). Yeah, Motown was well represented in the building. The place was not filled at the beginning but after the opening act and intermission, it was packed.

The Stepkids opened up the show, appearing on the stage dressed in all-white vintage wear. Their music was funky, with their visuals enhancing their psychedelic sound. They performed for about 45 minutes jamming out to their songs “Shadows on Behalf” and “Sweet Salvation” to name a few. They showed great vocal prowess and played very well together. This was the first time my brother and I had seen them, and we were impressed.

There was a short intermission then it was time for Mayer Hawthorne and the County. This was my second time seeing them perform live. I happened to catch them last year at the Masquerade when they were touring with Chromeo. The band was looking fly in their grey suits. Mayer hit the stage in a black suede outfit. The only thing that seemed to be missing was some female backup singers and dancers to complete their look. Who knows? Maybe they will add some their next go-around.

They didn’t hesitate to “get down and do their thing,” entertaining everyone in the venue with their classic Motown sounds. They sang out crowd favorites “A Strange Arrangement”, “The Ills”, “ A Long Time”, and “Hooked.”

It just seemed like there was no shortage of good songs in the setlist to sing along to. They blended them together easily from one to another. They even managed to mix in a little dancing of their own on some the songs as well and taught the audience how to do the “Errol Flynn.”

The audience begged for more  and they returned for an encore, which included a performance of the summer single “Henny and Ginger Ale.” The group of people I was with had a blast! My brother and I were hoping they would cover the Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” but I don’t think they had added that one to their set list yet. Next time. After the show was over Mayer took the time to meet some of the fans, signing CDs and taking pictures. I left the show dreaming of a future “soul revival tour” that would include Mayer Hawthorne, Adele, Duffy, The Stepkids, Aloe Blacc, John Legend, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and maybe Raphael Saadiq (and the late Amy Winehouse if she were still around). That would be a hot ticket!

In the meantime, those hungry for some more funk and soul can catch Mayer Hawthorne and the County w/ the Stepkids when they come to a city near you. Or, you can pick up their records. Here’s a clip of Mayer with Daryl Hall and his band backing him up on his song “A Strange Arrangement.”

 – Submitted by Akrofi Koram, Hardware Specialist