Classic Rock Corner

Last Night: Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren at the Smart Financial Centre

Shane Theriot, Greg Mayo, Clyde Jones, Daryl Hall and Brian Dunne
Shane Theriot, Greg Mayo, Clyde Jones, Daryl Hall and Brian Dunne Photo by Bob Ruggiero
When the front person of a successful group steps out on their own for a solo tour, it can actually be a relief for both the artist and his or her most diehard fans.

There’s less pressure to deliver the most familiar/hit material, the venues and audience sizes are a little smaller, and the artist is freer to investigate the nooks and crannies of their catalog, both in and out of the group.

Last night, that theory applied to duos as well, as Daryl Hall broke free at least temporarily from the Hall & Oates Machine for a solo show. And though there were plenty of familiar H&O hits, he took some musically bold steps by reimagining them, shifting some tempos, and adding instrumental sections.
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Daryl Hall & the Daryl's House Band feel right at home
Photo by Bob Ruggiero
The songs still felt familiar, but there was a freshness. As with a more rocking “Sara Smile” (with Hall on piano and searing guitar from Shane Theriot) and extended vamping on “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” Set closer “You Make My Dreams” went off into a few tangents before returning to the distinctive keyboard riff.

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Daryl Hall: Ready to testify!
Photo by Bob Ruggiero
It was some of Hall’s solo material that stood out most—many of which he conveniently mentioned are on his latest record, the solo anthology BeforeAfter.

Opener “Dreamtime” set a lush mood. There was a vibrant energy to deep cut “Cab Driver,” and “Babs and Babs”—a collaboration with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp that originated all the way back to 1980’s Sacred Songs solo effort—came close to creating a new genre: Prog Funk.

Hall also mentioned that he’s got a new studio album coming out, made with “longtime friend” Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. It was a perfect into to his own version of their hit “Here Comes the Rain Again.” With just Hall on piano and Theriot on guitar, he reinvented its guttural feeling to smoky jazz club.

Quite rightly, Daryl Hall has often been lauded as having one of the best “blue-eyed soul” voices in rock. That he really cut loose on a couple of numbers: the tribute to soul music from the city of Brotherly Love “I’m in a Philly Mood” and a gospeled-up take on Hall & Oates’ “Everytime You Go Away” (more familiar to most from the 1985 Paul Young cover).

Of course, Hall had to contend with yahoos shouting out various songs as if they were watching a human karaoke machine.

“There’s been a lot said lately about too much audience participation at shows,” he said, referring to series of recent incidents as shows in which audience members have interrupted acts on stage with yelling, taking selfies, or even throwing something at the headliner.

“I like audience participation. I just can’t understand what the fuck you’re saying!” he continued. Though Hall might be saying something to the stage/sound crew, as a series of technical flubs seemed to bring forth scurrying gray haired and black T-shirt-clad men to fix or tweak cables and entire instruments during the hour and 45-minute set.
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Clyde Jones, Todd Rundgren, and Brian Dunne
Photo by Bob Ruggiero
While Hall’s fellow Rock and Roll Hall Famer (though a reluctant member) Todd Rundgren technically “opened” the show, he was more of a co-headliner, turning in an impactful and vibrant hour-long set that found him energized, engaged, and in strong voice (though one woman I spoke with, not familiar with his distinctive often high, operatic, and quavery tones, disagreed).

The show certainly appealed to Rundgren’s hardcore fans—known as “Hot Toddies”—sprinkled through the venue with many seemingly concentrated near the front.

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Todd Rundgren: Man of Arms
Photo by Bob Ruggiero
Highlights included some of his hits (a fervent “We Gotta Get You a Woman”), heartbreaking balladry (“It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”) and a pair of deep cut hard rockers that saw Rundgren play some fierce guitar (“Buffalo Grass,” “Black Maria”). Though not, as my brother Jamie—a Hot Toddy himself—pointed out, on Rundgren’s famous “Foamy” guitar).

Audience reaction was understandably the biggest for his biggest hit, “Hello, It’s Me.” Rundgren even told the audience “there’s no refunds after this one.” And while he’s tossed it off as a joke for years, talking through or taking the piss out of it, that’s completely changed the last two times I saw him.

Still, it was during this tune that there was a truly scary moment. Those who’ve seen Rundgren in concert before know that when he’s just got a mic in hand, he likes to briskly stride in a straight line from one end of the stage to the other, often using his hands or facial expressions to act out the lyrics.

Toward the end of “Hello, It’s Me” he was crossing to stage right and tripped over a black speaker that was set a bit further back than the rest, making a very hard face plant into the stage, by chance right in front of me. And time stood still for a moment.

Very fortunately, he got right back up and finished the tune with just a bit of pain on his face. Though he did note that the title of the next song, “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel,” was eerily appropriate. Stage crew quickly came out and put red tape on the speaker to make it more visible. "I probably should have seen that during sound check!" Rundgren quipped.

Both Hall and Rundgren share the hometown of Philadelphia. And those Philly roots were showing. They’ve both professed a love for soul music—though not just that originated from the Gamble/Huff/Bell stable. Rundgren’s falsetto shone on his covers of the Impressions’ “I’m So Proud” and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “Ooo Baby Baby" (though Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" was perhaps an ill-fit).

Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren are also real friends, with Rundgren having appeared on two episodes of Hall’s acclaimed live performance show (first online only and then broadcast TV), Live from Daryl’s House. Its set somewhat replicated in the stage decorations at this show.

In fact, one of the most memorable of the 84 episodes run from 2007-2020 was shot at Rundgren’s home in Kauai, Hawaii. Hall announced during the shows that six new episodes have been shot and will air soon.

So, it was a special treat when, toward the end of the headline set, the 76-year-old Hall brought the 75-year-old Rundgren back out to duet on a song of Daryl’s (the Hall & Oates tune “Wait for Me”), one of Todd’s (“Can We Still Be Friends?”) and an epic collab on one of the trademark tunes of Philly Soul, the Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” that was a high point for the entire group onstage.

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"Hot Toddy" Jamie Ruggiero with previous Rundgren tour T-shirt
Photo by Bob Ruggiero
Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren might seem on the surface as an odd duo for touring partners. But on this night, they made perfect sense in each other’s orbit. But John Oates probably doesn’t have to worry. 

Overheard in the Crowd: “Wow. WOW. Holy shit!”—Jamie Ruggiero, as we made our way down, down, and down the Smart Centre’s slope toward our amazing third row seats.

The Boys (and Girls) in the Band—A Reviewer's Note: When I write a show review, I always make sure to include the names of the backing musicians, because they deserve it (who wants to be just “the drummer?").

Some acts make it easier with up-to-date names and pictures on their websites. Others have nothing, and I spend too much time at 1:30 am cross-checking possible names against Google images or frantically deciphering my notes taken in the dark after muffled stage intros, hoping my detective work pays off.

The crack backing band of pros this night—billed as “The Daryl’s House Band,” included regular members Shane Theriot (guitar), Brian Dunne (drums), and Porter Carroll Jr. (vocals/guitar), along with Clyde Jones (bass) and Greg Mayo (keyboards).

But a very welcome addition—and clear crowd favorite—was saxophonist “Mr. Casual” Charlie DeChant. The last member left from Hall & Oates classic ‘70s/’80s group, he certainly cut a striking and fun figure with his trademark longhaired, hippie Ben Franklin look, shiny jacket, and bejeweled shoes. (Unfortunately, he was not out front during the songs alotted to shoot photos). And even at 78 years old, he could still blow, man, blow, recreating his contributions to many of the original H&O hits (though, sadly, no “Maneater”).

Daryl Hall

Foolish Pride
Out of Touch
Say It Isn't So
I'm in a Philly Mood
Cab Driver
Everytime You Go Away
Babs and Babs
Here Comes the Rain Again
Sara Smile
I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)

Wait for Me
Can We Still Be Friends?
Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)
You Make My Dreams

Todd Rundgren
Real Man
Love of the Common Man
It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference
We Gotta Get You a Woman
Buffalo Grass
I Saw the Light
Black Maria
Unloved Children
Hello It's Me
Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel
I'm So Proud
Ooo Baby Baby
I Want You
The Want of a Nail
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero