Concert Review: Hall & Oates make a baby-boomer music critic very happy

Funny how that works. I could cue that song up on CD any time — it's never too far from reach — but something about them playing it live made their concert very, very special.

Hall & Oates, backed by a six-piece band in a sort of living room set-up for the first two thirds of the show, were terrific last night. They played every hit they could fit in a show that lasted just under 90 minutes: "Out of Touch," "Say It Isn't So," "Las Vegas Turnaround," "She's Gone," "One on One," "Sara Smile," "I Can't Go For That," "Rich Girl," "You Make My Dreams," "Kiss on My List," "Private Eyes," and a couple of other I missed 'cause of traffic or didn't jot down.

Daryl Hall is 62 and still one of the greatest soul singers walking the earth. Oh, he's lost a little. After the instrumental build-up in "She's Gone," where the payoff is Hall's soaring tenor blast — "She's gaw-wah-wah-wah-wah-oh-oo-oh-wan" — he backed off and let group harmonies take over. But he hit a few impressive falsetto notes and improvised plenty. John Oates' lead vocal are shaky, all thrusts and darts and little sustain, but ultimately he knows that he's a very lucky, highly paid backup singer, so his few sub-par moments under the spotlight didn't mar the show.

None of the Hall & Oates material sounds dated. And some of it sounded better last night than when it first came out. "Private Eyes," for instance. The recorded version is burdened by that classic 1980s drum machine overload. Last night, it sounded more organic. As an homage of sorts, the band and audience clapped the "bap ... bap-bap," conjuring up a ubiquitous single from a quarter century ago, or close to it. Doesn't seem nearly that far back that Hall & Oates ruled the world.

I'm pretty sure I was a sophomore in college when this happened.

I was sitting in a friend's room in the dorm on a weekday afternoon when I heard this music from another room. The stereos, dorm stereos at my college at least, were shit, so the sound was faint. But the song captivated me. I tuned out the conversation, stood up, walked out the door, made a left, went down two, maybe three, rooms and turned right.

A medium tempo sort of folk-rock tune was playing on the shitty stereo. "Who is this?" I asked the guy playing it on the shitty stereo. Daryl Hall and John Oates, he told me. "Never heard of 'em," I said, and he handed me the LP cover of Abandoned Lunchonette.

"Ahh-oooo, uh-oooo, woo-ooo, it'll be all right, when the morning comes," the male tenor sang. It was Daryl Hall.

So began my long love affair with the music of Daryl Hall & John Oates. I followed them through the glam period, through the quasi-psychedelic period, through the quasi-disco period, through the superstar period of the 1980s, which turned into the turn-the-drum-machine-so-it-sounds-like-a-baseball-bat-hitting-a-garbage-can period. I followed them through the "you like Hall & Oates?" jibes from my hipper-than-thou acquaintances, insisting that Hall & Oates were merely a pleasure, not a guilty one.

I've seen Hall & Oates six, seven, eight times, but I never heard them play "When the Morning Comes," the song that first seduced from another room.

They played it last night at Ruth Eckerd Hall. A lump-in-the-throat moment.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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