Classic Rock Corner

Woodlands Pavilion Goes For Hall and Oates In a Big Way

Hall and Oates, Mutlu
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 26, 2015

In the brilliant viral Web series “Yacht Rock” – which fictitiously imagines the lives and interactions of the Super Soft Rockers of the seventies – “Hall and Oates” are tough street outsiders from Philly who want to bust into the cozy tight circle of California golden boys like Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.

In a whir of curly black head and mustache hair, the combative “Oates” is angry and agitated and eager to punch out all oncomers, just as much as he is keeping the meek “Hall” his supplicant.

The real John Oates is said to get the outsized joke, and of course, there was no such rancor between the performers who have spent 40-plus years together or from them to audience. And while their ‘70s soft-rock side was certainly on display Saturday night, they showed up with a well-balanced set list that their music touches way more genres: rock, soul, and synth-pop.

But things got off to a slow start. The pair seemed somewhat lethargic, performing pretty rotely. Hall was dealing with some sort of mike or guitar technical issue, yelling to the side of the stage and gesticulating, even if there seemed nothing amiss from an audience perspective. Oates, making light of the roadie scrambling on the stage to adjust the monitor, told the crowd it was as “rare treat to see ‘Matt.’”

It took until the fourth number — “Say It Isn’t So” — for the first smiles to appear, The show finally caught some fire with the duo's version of the Righteous Brothers’ standard “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling,” and Hall and Oates' energy and looseness increased as the night went on. Hall's voice in particular seemed to grow stronger as the night progressed, hitting many of the falsettos ingrained on vinyl years before.

Hall and Oates — both on guitar for most of the night, with Hall occasionally on keyboard — have made no bones about their admiration over the years not just for the Phil Spector sound, but R&B/soul legends like the Temptations. In fact, my first Hall & Oates record was not one of their studio releases, but Live at the Apollo with Tempts classic vocalists David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks.

High points in the set list were a smoldering “She’s Gone,” which Hall called “the song that got us out of Philly”; an extended, beefed-out “I Can’t Go For That” (complete with gospel intro), and a buoyant “You Make My Dreams Come True.” Oates took a vocal turn in his showcase “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song),” and a couple of deeper cuts made the set list as well.

Their crack six-piece backing band included Shane Therlot (guitar), Eliot Lewis (keyboards), Klyde Jones (bass), Porter Carroll, Jr. (percussion), and Brian Dunne (drums). Therlot in particular did some fine, punchy playing. But the duo’s ace in the hole – and the only remaining member of their ‘70s and ‘80s heyday backing band – was saxophonist Charlie DeChant, aka “Mr. Casual.” He not only nailed note-for-note his distinctive “Maneater,” “I Can’t Go for That” solos, among others, his extended blowing and stage vamping were electric.

And with his long, long gray hair flowing in the stage fans, Mr. Casual seemed like some sort of otherworldly horn apparition, clearly illustrating to the audience what a rock sax player should sound like compared to a jazzbo. And he even busted out the flute!

And while the set list was heavy on the hits, the duo have had so many they could have easily filled another half-hour with more Top 40 memories for a crowd ready to revisit their youth. And when the Press spoke with Oates, he said that was not a bad problem to have.

Playing almost exactly 90 minutes — likely their contractual obligation — the show wrapped up at an early-for-The-Woodlands 9:45 p.m.

Hall seemed especially jazzed and sincere about the warm reaction from the Houston crowd, the vast majority of which stayed for both encores. And it may sound selfish, but there was plenty of time to throw in another tune or two.

Though — with all apologies to my dear friend Manny Cruz, at the show with his lovely and patient wife — I am thankful that “Adult Education” did not make the set list.

Opening the show with a short set was Mutlu, the singer/guitarist from the band’s hometown who has appeared on Hall’s internet and TV performance show Live From Daryl’s House.

Bereft of a band and with just an acoustic guitar and a stool, he had a great voice, but seemed like an odd choice for an opener. However, he did get some genuine laughs with the raunchy “Caramelized” (which he said was his attempted at a “’70s-Billy Dee-Williams-Colt .45 vibe”) in which his lovely lady’s body is covered in the sticky-sweet treat like a human Twix bar.

Out of Touch
Did It In a Minute
Say It Isn’t So
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (Righteous Brothers cover)
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
Sara Smile
Do What You Want, Be What You Are
I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)

Rich Girl
You Make My Dreams Come True

Kiss On My List
Private Eyes

Personal Bias: Growing up in the ‘80s with MTV blaring constantly in the house, Hall and Oates were like cool uncles that would frequently drop in.

The Crowd: Wide range of thirty- through sixtysomethings. And way more chicks than the Steely Dan show.

Overheard In the Crowd: “They can’t be in their late sixties!” - Rob Malerba, King of Kingwood.

Random Notebook Dump: How could the Pavilion run low or out of red wine with some many middle aged women in the audience? This wasn't a Slipknot or Toby Keith show.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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