Hall and Oates at Arena Theatre, 5/25/2013
Photos by Jim Bricker
Hall and Oates Arena Theatre May 25, 2013
In one of the many throwback moments Saturday night at the Arena Theatre, a woman, who had clearly forgotten what year it was and what band she was watching, rushed the stage while Hall and Oates were transitioning between their final two songs, '80s hits "Kiss On My List" and "Private Eyes." Her target: a genuinely shocked John Oates. The mustachioed second half of the classic pop duo (yes, the 'stache is back) shrugged off the bear hug, but the band howled clearly getting a kick out of their bandleader's rock-star turn.
Unfortunately, that may have represented the most exciting point in an otherwise less than energetic performance from the classic pop duo during their 80-minute set. In one of the more unintentionally revealing exchanges onstage, Daryl Hall introduced "She's Gone" saying, "I never like to say an album is my favorite, but this one is way up there, like one of two, maybe one of one."
Oates, perplexed, responded, "We've done like 30 albums and we only had two good ones?"
Hall, who if he put on a bathrobe and sipped a White Russian, could win a Big Lebowski lookalike contest as The Dude any day of the week, is still a gifted, throaty singer with serious soul chops, but he appeared too often to be going through the motions on Saturday night. The band has amassed an impressive five gold, four platinum and two multiplatinum albums to go with six No. 1 hits in their 40-plus-year career, but Hall seemed disinterested during their biggest hits of the '80s, and the entire band's energy waned as a result.
"We're going to play stuff tonight from all of our eras," Daryl Hall told the audience of middle-aged suburbanites. Of course, what he really meant was "both" given that Hall and Oates are defined by their '70s R&B-tinged soft-rock and '80s monster pop hits. And they did not disappoint the two-thirds-filled Arena Theatre, playing every No. 1 including "Rich Girl," "Maneater," and "Out of Touch." The crowd ate it up, dancing in the aisles for much of the show.
The duo was at its best during the '70s portion of the night, particularly "She's Gone" and "Sara Smile," which allowed the band to stretch out a bit and gave Hall the room he needed to inject the soul singing he obviously loves and still performs exceptionally well. The extended jam at the end of "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" was the band at its most lively.
While the songs were executed with precision, the entire show felt a bit like the formerly Internet-based Live From Daryl's House, where Hall performs with friends and music legends. The living-room set might have felt more intimate were it not for the fact the music felt fairly true to the arrangements of their biggest '80s hits, which is obviously what the crowd wanted.
That uncomfortable mix of '80s bombast and '70s low-down was at odds all night. Frankly, I would have preferred to see more of the latter and less of the former, but you have to give the people what they want, I suppose.
In one final awkward moment during the encore, both Hall and Oates gave 30-second pitches to the audience for their current projects -- Hall's continuation of his now-on-TV series and a project boasting the release of a single every month from Oates and friends. It was strange, but no one seemed to really notice. They were too busy singing and dancing to "You Make My Dreams."
Personal Bias: "She's Gone" is in my Top 10 list for best light-rock songs of the '70s.
The Crowd: White. Middle Aged. Early risers, judging by the stream of people headed for the exits before the first encore.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Oates has really tiny feet."
Random Notebook Dump: As good as the hits were, it was a shame Hall and Oates didn't play the Billy Paul (also a Philly native) classic "Me and Mrs. Jones." It has been a staple of their set for years and is a particularly good fit for Hall's voice.