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Mayer Hawthorne smooths it out in Denver

Mayer Hawthorne, who performed in Denver on Feb. 11, has always been an artist who wore his influences on his sleeve. It's a mixed blessing, then, that he's finally become overwhelmed by them.

Mayer Hawthorne performed on Feb. 11 in Denver.
Mayer Hawthorne performed on Feb. 11 in Denver.
Matt Farley
Mayer Hawthorne performed Feb. 11 in Denver
Mayer Hawthorne performed Feb. 11 in Denver
Matt Farley

Generally labeled as a “neo-soul” artist, Hawthorne has long been one of the most prominent modern carriers of the classic R&B torch. Something of a hybrid of Buddy Holly and Barry White, even Hawthorne himself would be hard-pressed to argue that he's not a throwback.

As of the his new album (2013's “Where Does This Door Go”), though, Hawthorne has ditched his ironic white boy soul outlook (not to mention his glasses) and gone serious – think Robin Thicke minus the sexuality. When the night's biggest thrills are covers of Bel Biv Devoe and Run DMC, you know that your original work has a problem.

Which is a shame. As recently as late 2012, Hawthorne was as original as they come. Here's hoping he finds his way back there soon.