It’s hard to believe that it has been 38-years since I first saw Daryl Hall and John Oates perform. Well before their MTV-fueled era of superstardom, they were well known locally thanks to free-form radio. That first time they were merely an opening act for Leo Sayer at New York City’s intimate Bottom Line.
I was thrilled to see them again in December 2011 at the Ryman after not seeing the duo for over two decades. I didn’t hesitate for another chance on their recent return visit. Like last time, they played to a sold out crowd of old folk like me who certainly appreciated the early, but highly unusual, 7:40 start time without an opener.
Scanning some recent set lists posted at www.setlist.com, I was somewhat disappointed that their show’s current running order of songs did not differ much from the 2011 show. But, how could they do a show and leave out even one of their chart-topping hits? As noted in the set list below, eleven of the songs played at their latest Ryman show were Top Ten songs, and six of those were Number One hits. The fact that there were six other Top Ten hits that they didn’t play illustrates their great track record. Songs aside, it is truly remarkable that both Daryl, age 66, and John, age 64, have not lost a single lick as talented performers.
Hall remains a masterful vocalist with his full range intact, not missing a note. Regretfully, he still has those moments as he did back in 1975 when he gets carried away with his extended vocal noodling–notably while at the keyboards for “Sara Smile” or “Rich Girl.” John Oates, on the other hand, is the perfect foil to Hall, both physically and musically. He, too, consistently delivers, providing the duo with its low end both in height and vocals. Tall, blonde, and handsome Hall has always been the bigger star, and he tends to spend more time in the spotlight than Oates. (Is that why his signed solo CD sells for $30 at the merch table while Oates’ CD is only $10?) Hall does, however, give his musical partner several moments to shine, most notably on “How Does it Feel to Be Back.”
While I love the later period mega-hits, I will forever be equally fond of their earlier works. In fact, 1973’s Abandoned Luncheonette is my true desert-island disk. This night, I was blessed to hear two songs from this record: the playful “Las Vegas Turnaround,” and my favorite song to sing in the shower, “She’s Gone.” Both were brilliantly performed. Having heard “She’s Gone” so many times, however, I shudder when the live rendition goes freeform and isn’t played note-for-note to the recorded version. I honestly expect that a hundred years from now, this song will be taught in music school as an example of the perfect “rock and soul” song. The duo respectfully offered up this masterpiece as a tribute to its late producer, Arif Mardin, for his arrangement of it.
The guys from Philly pulled out another surprise from the old days with “It’s Uncanny” from the 1977 No Goodbyes compilation of their early Atlantic recordings. It would have been nice to hear some additional older tracks, or perhaps something from 2003’s fine Do It for Love LP, if time had allowed. But, many of the current musical arrangements extended the songs allowing for a meager 14 selections in the 90-minute set.
The touring band consisted of a bunch of younger players who probably were yet to be born when I saw that early Bottom Line show. Charlie DeChant, however, is a long-time side man to the duo who provided his usual excellent accompaniment on sax, often coming out to share front and center with the duo.
Hall and Oates closed the night strongly with possibly their two most popular Number Ones: “Kiss on My List” and “Private Eyes.” With regards for the latter, I wondered if they knew that its co-writer, Warren Pash, now resides here in Music City.
With Oates now a sometimes local resident, hopefully Hall and Oates will return again to sprinkle some other older gems and newer songs amongst their cavalcade of hits.
SETLIST (with highest US chart position indicated):
- Out of Touch (#1)
- Family Man (#6)
- Say It Isn’t So (#2)
- It’s Uncanny (#80)
- How Does it Feel to Be Back (#30)
- Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
- She’s Gone (#7)
- Sara Smile (#4)
- Maneater (#1)
- I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) (#1)
- Rich Girl (#1)
- You Make My Dreams (#5)
- Kiss on My List (#1)
- Private Eyes (#1)
Daryl Hall – Vocals, Guitar and Keyboards
John Oates – Vocals and Guitar
Charles DeChant – Saxophone and Keyboards
Brian Dunne – Drums
Eliot Lewis – Keyboards
Zev Katz – Bass
Everett Bradley – Percussion and Backing Vocals
Paul Pesco – Guitars