A few years ago I saw Hall & Oates at Warner Theatre and while the details of that evening have faded, the emotion and fond memories of the night have not. Full of energy, great sound, and the Philly-bred Hall & Oates signature tunes, the intimacy of Warner Theatre provided a long-lasting positive experience that I’ve never forgotten. So, it was a no-brainer when the opportunity presented itself, that I jumped at the opportunity to see Hall & Oates for a second time. Wednesday’s, one-night-only, nearly sold out concert performance was not only a second serving treat – I was surprisingly satiated in a new easy, breezy way as the memorable Hall & Oates classics relaxed into a comfortable familiarity that was both personal and nostalgic.
Although Darryl Hall and John Oates met in 1967, it wasn’t until 1972 that the Temple University friends formed a partnership and embarked on what is now a 40-plus year creative fusion of rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Hall & Oates had 34 chart hits on the US Billboard Hot 100, and their best songs are filled with strong hooks and unforgettable melodies.
The subtlety and fine tuning of Hall & Oats’ musicianship are as good as they’ve ever been. And while the vocals may be beginning to thin (just a little), the passion of the most commercially successful duo in the history of recorded music has not. The sustaining crossover likeability of the two singer/guitarist/songwriters, and the ‘good times’ relevance of their timeless classics resonated with the diverse demographics represented in this concerts’ audience.
The mostly casually dressed crowd was a pleasing mix of age and race. I sat behind an aging, white-haired, white man who swayed to the tunes with his attractive, noticeably younger Spanish wife, who were sitting next to two laid-back, African-American twenty-somethings. There were romantic, middle-aged couples far and near, a mixed group of spirited female friends who sat behind me, and I even spotted several elementary school age children with their rockin’ parents.
There was a jovial, sublime happiness that permeated the ornate interior of the Warner Theatre. I have to say, it was a bit unusual, and I learned something that I hadn’t realized the first time I saw Hall & Oats in concert – and that is that Hall & Oats makes folks happy. Plenty of picture-taking, (of each other as much as H&O) beer cheer, and hand-holding were evident with these concert folks, and at least some whom you’d think were escaping the ‘Federal Government Shutdown Blues’ in exchange for the soft rock, blue-eyed soul of this captivating musical duo.
The evening kicked off with high energy and an up tempo groove with a snappy version of “Maneater.” The group came out loose, ready for a good time, and played an entertaining 90-minute set that included two encores. The six backing musicians (familiar to regular viewers of “Daryl’s House“) provided flawless transitions and featured several wails from the saxophone of the purple suit wearing Charles “Mr. Casual” DeChant (the group’s long-running Saxophonist) and the quick, playful, finger play of Paul Pesco on electric guitar.
Darryl Hall’s choice of the smooth, mellow lower notes was the route taken, more often than not, and there was the continuous soulful and melodic “talk singing” as I like to call it. But this enamored audience seemed appreciative and well-satisfied with the efforts of Hall & Oates, and I can’t disagree. A little “rock and soul” go a long way and John Hall’s once perfected falsetto still never fails to please.
For whatever reason, John Oates has always been my personal favorite between the duo. There is a mysterious duality in the sexy reserve of his demeanor and committed style of play. Oates has played the guitar since the age of five, and when John’s guitar strings began to strum “Sara Smile,” a song co-written by both halves of the duo, the audience sang along, and my evening’s enjoyment peaked with the Hall & Oates greatest hit. In 1976, “Sara Smile” was the group’s first Top 10 hit in the US and was the breakthrough single that truly put the duo on the music map, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
Soon after, “She’s Gone” became their second top – 10 hit, a song that has become one of the group’s most beloved hits. Hall & Oats were past the midpoint of the swift moving concert when they performed this song Wednesday night, and it was the one song they sang that visible, deep felt emotions connected with the lyrics of the song. Hall said, “it (“She’s Gone”) always feels fresh because it’s real.” Those few comments evoked the biggest standing ovation at that point. The slowed rhythm of this gentle remix expressed a thoughtful, introspective, almost somber version than I have ever heard before. Darryl sang the song as if the past was catching up with present, and as he pulled away from the mic, his voice stretched to hit the long ‘she’s gone’ high notes. The rich tone of Darryl Hall’s voice is still unmistakably clear, but he has perfected masking any pitchiness in his falsetto notes with the drowning high notes from the saxophone and the accompanying background music.
“Rich Girl” was Hall & Oates first number one hit (also #1 R&B) in 1977, and in the 80’s Daryl and John would go on to score six consecutive multi-platinum albums and six #1 singles, including “Kiss on My List”(1981), “Private Eyes,” (1981)“I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) (also #1 R&B,1981), “Maneater”(1982) and “Out of Touch” (1984).
As they navigated back and forth through their discography, with Hall on vocals, guitar, and keyboard, what was particularly special with this performance was the opportunity to hear the rarely performed 1978, mid-tempo tune with heavy saxophone play,“It’s a Laugh” (from Along the Red Ledge). The humorous banter between Hall and Oates was engaging as Darryl and John reminisced about what they both said was one of their all-time favorite albums.
The next song “It’s Uncanny” (from No Goodbyes) was another played rarity that many fans might not be as familiar, but judging from the standup cheers of the grooving audience, you wouldn’t have known otherwise. The No Goodbye album was a “Best of” compilation of Hall & Oates first three Atlantic Records recordings, but “It’s Uncanny” was one of the new songs added and released as a single upon this album’s release. They played this sweet, jazzy blues tune with as much gusto as they did any song of the night. Interestingly, what makes this concert selection even more curious is that this Hall & Oats single failed to break the Billboard Top 40. Then they surprised the audience with a new song on the tour and with John Oats in the lead, “Alone Too Long.” It’s a song that Oats said is the theme song for the new HBO series, Hello Ladies, which premiered September 29th. Hall & Oates has only played this song on three tour dates before Warner Theatre last night.
There wasn’t a lot of talk in this concert, but the most exchange came after the first encore when both Darryl and John promoted their individual projects. In 2007, Daryl Hall created a free monthly web series, Live from Daryl’s House. Well-known performers visit and play with Darryl on the show. Guests have included: Train, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, K.T. Tunstall, Todd Rundgren, Rob Thomas, and Smokey Robinson. In 2010, the show won the WEBBY Award in the Variety Category. John Oates spoke of his new digital singles available on itunes. His recently released latest project, A Good Road to Follow, is John’s digital singles monthly subscription series featuring his original songs.
By the end and two encores later, the audience wouldn’t stop applauding until they heard the three hits they had been waiting all evening to hear-the finessed and freshly arranged versions of “Rich Girl,” “You Make My Dreams,” and the hand-clapping frenzied finale, “Private Eyes.”
The ageless rockers are making the most out of life with their individual projects and their combined musical talents. It’s great to have the nostalgic ride back into memories of your youth and still get a fully committed and energized performance by the talent. The 66-year-old Darryl Hall (he’ll be 67 on Oct 11th) and 64-year-old John Oates may have lost a half-step but the quality of these rockers’ harmonious sound remains true, and the impact of their legacy lives forever.
Hall& Oats Concert Set List for 10/3/13 at Warner Theater
Porter Carroll – Percussion, Vocals
Charles DeChant – Saxophone, Keyboards, Vocals
Brian Dunne – Drums
Klyde Jones – Bass, Vocals
Eliot Lewis – Keyboards, Vocals
Paul Pesco – guitars, vocals
2. “Out of Touch”
3. “ Say It Isn’t So”
4. “It’s a Laugh”
5. ‘It’s Uncanny”
6. “Alone Too Long” /HBO Theme song to ‘Hello Ladies”
7. “Las Vegas Turnaround”
8. “She’s Gone”
9. “Sara Smile”
10. “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”
11. “Rich Girl”
12. “Make My Dreams Come True”
13. “Kiss on My List”
14. “Private Eyes”
Running Time: 90 minutes including two encores.