Best Ride At Puyallup Fair? Hall & Oates Joyride of Hits"/>
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
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For a band who have been lugging a majority of their hits around with them for 25+ years, Daryl Hall & John Oates didn't look weary or sluggish at all on Wednesday night at the Puyallup Fair as they took a determined (but at their own leisurely pace) stroll down memory lane that never once seemed phoned in or soulless.
How does a band who has had 34 singles in Billboard's Hot 100 chart even write a setlist? That, my friends, cannot be easy. While the band hasn't been the most prolific since the late 80's, seeing a concentrated live dose of hit after hit after hit from Hall & Oates makes you realize you realize that, aside from MJ and Madonna, Hall & Oates absolutely owned the 80's. However, unlike a lot of the drum-machine/synth-laden fare of the day, Hall & Oates' catalog has aged incredibly well. Looking past the terrible treble-y trends of the typical 80's recordings, Hall & Oates heart (directly connected to it's Philly soul) shines through as a glowing beacon of warmth, of masterfully well-written pop songs in a stylistically scattered era. They've spent a good portion of the last decade focusing on new material and touring as a soulful 50's doo-wop tribute group, but Wednesday night's set was focused on the 80's and those songs that made them giants.
The band's set was completely devoid of gimmicks; aside from some subtle lighting and a colorful backdrop, the focus was on the band as they playfully strutted through the dynamics of their catalog. Daryl Hall was all smiles under his amber sunglasses and looked to be having an absolute blast as the band ventured through some loose, confident takes on their catalog of hits. John Oates (prerequisite quiet guy) was all business with a few shy smiles peeking through, providing pitch perfect backing vocals and tasteful guitar leads. "Family Man" was a pleasant surprise in the set, with the stadium's giant, crisp sound pushing the backed-into-a-corner paranoia of the song into powerful, anxious territory. "Say It Isn't So" was the first song of many in the evening to find the band letting their songs breathe by pushing their instrumental sections out longer, letting those deceptively smart grooves roll just a bit more than they ever did on record, and letting guitarist Paul Pesco's Texas roadhouse chops mesh seamlessly with Oates' chorus-heavy jangle. "She's Gone" clocked in just a few notches slower than on record, purposefully accenting Hall's sultry pining for the one that got away and focusing on (again) that seductive, unflinching groove that is the cornerstone of Hall & Oates' music.
The only misstep in the entire evening was the band's intro to "One on One". Someone's take on the subtle build of the song's intro was off, and it could've totally ruined the momentum the band had up to that point in time. Daryl Hall, realizing it was his guitar, copped to it over the mic while the band continued to play the basic beat of the song. A roadie brought a piano out for Hall to try instead of guitar, and the song sprang back to life, re-energizing the crowd with Hall grinning the entire time. It was one of those awesome and rare moments where giants get humanized for a moment, the slick, professional nature of a big concert dangles ever so delicately on the edge, only to be reigned back in for an even more impassioned run-through of the song.
While many bands with lesser history tour as a carnival of rotating cast members, Hall & Oates remain, well, Daryl Hall and John Oates. Sure, Oates no longer sports his iconic moustache, Hall now sports a goatee, and their backing band has changed quite a bit over the years, but the reason you go see Hall & Oates is to see the two guys that wrote the songs, Mr. Hall and Mr. Oates. For a couple of guys in their sixties, they've aged incredibly well, looking even more effortlessly hip than they did in their prime, and sounding (possibly) even better than before. I say that not as some sort of blanket/cop-out statement, but the band sounds hungrier than I ever thought a band of 60 year olds could; 25 years after their last chart-topping hit, Hall & Oates songs still sound vibrant and even more confident than they originally did. Not only do they still look fit and happy, but Daryl Hall's voice is one of those rare ones that has gotten even better with age. While many performers lose a lot of their power and range somewhere in their 30's or 40's, Hall's voice is firmly rooted in his Philadelphia upbringing and that city's foundation of doo-wop and soul, and has only gotten more powerful with the passing of years. Toward the end of the set, the lights dropped out aside from a single spotlight on Hall, closing his eyes and laying down some Rhodes-y chords on his keyboard, shaking his head from side to side and muttering soulfully. This gradually evolving into him chanting "no can do" before the lights popped on and the band exploded into "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)", extending the song well past it's original running in order to explore, that soulful, pulsing groove that seems to run in so much of the H&O catalog.
While it was unfortunate that the band only played for 75 or so minutes (festival concerts are always unfortunately short for headliners), it's actually a great testament to Hall & Oates' songwriting that a set that long would still leave every member of the crowd walking away saying "I wish they would've played..."
Out of Touch
Say It Isn't So
One on One
I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)
You Make My Dreams
Kiss On My List
The crowd: Surprising mix of AARPies and early college kids. Also, LOTS OF CARNIES.
Personal bias:Hall & Oates were an inescapable force on the radio during my childhood, so I may have a slightly nostalgic take on all of this.
Overheard in the crowd:
Overheard in the crowd:Daryl Hall asking the crowd if they'd mind if he just sat on stage and ate a cheeseburger, rather than playing "Sara Smile". The smell of barbecue, corn dogs, cotton candy and elephant ears from the nearby carnival wafted through the stadium during the entire show.
Random notebook dump #1: The beginning of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" totally rips from the "Sara Smile" intro.
Random notebook dump #2:
Random notebook dump #2:Apparently, the scones at the Puyallup Fair are the jam. I've never had a scone in my life that I would stand in a 15+ person deep line for, but every scone place I walked by had a giant line. Going back this weekend, and I WILL TRY THESE FABLED SCONES.