Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lost That Lovin' Feeling

What does the ‘80s look like in concert form?

A saxophonist walking back and forth at the front of the stage, belting out a solo lasting several minutes? Check! A second percussionist who spends a serious portion of his time on stage banging not one, but two tambourines, often into one another? Check! Two men hovering around retirement age, surrounded by mostly younger musicians they hired just for this tour? Check!

The Hall & Oates concert I attended with my wife on Monday night served as a reminder that the past is never dead; it’s not even past. Although the median age of excited ticket-holders hovered in the high 40s, I was stunned by the younger attendees. “Out of Touch” was the most recent song they played. Anyone under the age of 28 wasn’t even a zygote when Darryl claimed that he was soul alone, that soul really mattered to him.

To only be fair, “Do What You Want, Be What You Are: Hall & Oates 2012” was an overpriced experience. I guess they tried to warn us with the title, right? They did what they wanted, which was to make money. They were what they are, which is old and a bit frayed at the edges.

Darryl Hall's voice in its prime truly was a signature thing of beauty. It had white man soul and a healthy range, and he could belt out primitive sounds -- ooh! woo-woo! awwww! -- with the best of his generation. And while the value of being able to shift from soul-infused folkish rock to the New Wave Pop powerhouses they became in the ‘80s can be debated, they did it with nary a hitch, as if they’d been saving up for a synth and a saxophonist and splurged for both at just the right time.

Many of the creative license of their concert involved the simple fact that Darryl Hall cannot sing like he once could. This isn’t a capital crime; the guy is 66, for Christ’s sake, and unlike many AARP-friendly never-say-retire bands, H&O songs depend on that signature vocal. So, without that, the concert was bound to be a disappointment for me.

At the 58th concert minute, Darryl said these words: “Thank you and good night!”

We all knew this was merely the first pre-encore exit, but that it occurred before they had even completed an hour of their show was troubling. They played two encores, and their total playing time managed to tick right past the 90-minute mark, so it could have been worse, but it sure as hell could’ve been better for tickets ranging from $50-80.

"Live from Darryl's House," Hall's show that began
as web-only but now shows on Palladium channel,
is great, because it reminds of how much talent and
ability Hall still has without reminding us that he
can't do what once made him money: that is,
Hit The Big Notes.
Surreal Choice #1 was Hall’s use of a serious echo on his vocals. For three songs, his voice would repeat repeat repeat. Surreal Choice #2 was the 5-minute saxophone solo performed by no one the audience knew, traipsing back and forth at the edge of the stage, almost as if someone might throw him their panties.

We sat in the lower balcony section, two rows from the edge, a few rows in front of about a dozen college-aged kids. Those kids were awesome, because they really did love the music, but they also took pleasure from the utter kitschiness of the experience. They laughed aloud at the echo machine. They snickered at the never-ending sax solo. But they also danced and laughed and sang along the way Hall would’ve sung if his voice still had it. (To be fair, Hall’s voice wasn’t totally toasted. He could hit the notes here and there when he fought it, but there was no way it could hit all the notes to all those songs for 90 minutes.)

When the band returned for its first encore, the fans knew they could sit in their seats no longer. They stood. They rushed the stage. They, and my wife and I with them, danced harder and clapped louder and shook their hips sider to sider. The crowd -- not Hall, and not Oates -- made the concert the almost-success it almost was. They willed it to remind them of the songs they loved and the band they enjoyed, and by the second encore, they’d even managed to fool me into believing it was a better concert.

Such is the power of nostalgia.

5 comments:

Daisy said...

Tickets for Eric Clapton go on sale Saturday? Think it's worth the $100? I can't decide.

troutking said...

If he's playing as a trio like on the 12-12-12 concert, hell yes!

Actually I saw him on his last tour, I think, about 3-4 years ago and he was great because he had a bunch of young guns around him like Derek Trucks to push him. Has to be better than Hall and Oates!

Billy said...

I guess that would depend, Daisy. I own exactly 4 Clapton songs, so I'd rather spend the $100 buying Clapton CDs than watching a concert. (Or, honestly, buying other things entirely.)

But to Troutking's point, Clapton's greatness does not come from his vocal prowess, but rather his guitar-playin' genius, and that kind of skill doesn't deteriorate in quite the same way a voice can/does. So I'd imagine a 2012 Clapton concert holds much closer to a fan's expectations.

Daisy said...

Just found out the price is closer to $200 for Clapton so it seems the decision has been made for me.

Anonymous said...

Dude - my sister got the flu at that crappy H&O concert.