Smokey Robinson, Raphael Saadiq, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Mayer Hawthorne

SXSW showcase reviews

Smokey Robinson, Raphael Saadiq, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Mayer Hawthorne

Smokey Robinson
Smokey Robinson (Photo by Gary Miller)
Austin Music Hall, Friday, March 19

Opening a stellar lineup representing more than half a century of R&B, from Motown to Daptone, hipster heartthrob Mayer Hawthorne, decked in a skinny tie and red cardigan sweater, pieced together A Strange Arrangement with his fourpiece County. "Can I take y'all to Motown for a minute?" Hawthorne asked before launching into "One Track Mind." Sorry Mayer, but Smokey Robinson had that one covered tonight. Hometown howler Black Joe Lewis and his sevenpiece Honeybears smacked the growing crowd with a raucous set of Texas roadhouse blues, screaming through "I'm Broke" from Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! and blowing harp on Howlin' Wolf's "I Asked for Water." Rocking a slim fire-engine-red suit and clearly the coolest cat in the building not named Smokey, soul man Raphael Saadiq sprinted out of the gate with "100 Yard Dash" and jogged through a medley of Motown facsimiles, including "Oh Girl" and "Sure Hope You Mean It" from The Way I See It. The miracle man of the hour stepped onstage in all black, purring the pop perfection of "I Second That Emotion" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" before brewing a "Quiet Storm." The Motown legend cooed "Ooo Baby Baby" seemingly in slow motion before declaring, "We're gonna play everything tonight!" to the delight of a nearly full house. Smokey told tales of traveling with the Temptations and led the crowd in a sing-along of tunes he penned for the group, including "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "Get Ready," and "My Girl." "You are the SXSW choir," he praised. "The Tracks of My Tears" and a mile-long version of "Cruisin'" closed a set that was nothing short of miraculous.

Raphael Saadiq
Raphael Saadiq (Photo by Gary Miller)

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Smokey Robinson, Raphael Saadiq, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Mayer Hawthorne

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