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Whoa, whoa, here they come: Hall and Oates at the Palace.

One on One

By Mike Hotter

Daryl Hall and John Oates

Palace Theatre, July 7

‘We’re soul alone/and soul real-ly matters to me,” Daryl Hall croons on “Out of Touch,” one of the many early-’80s hits he and musical partner John Oates performed for an enthusiastic audience of mostly middle-aged folks out for some nostalgic fun last Saturday evening. The duo’s devotion to their R&B roots was apparent as their band warmed the crowd up with “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” the Gamble and Huff instrumental most recognizable as the theme from Soul Train. As they emerged from the shadows of the Palace stage and slipped into the groove of “Maneater,” it was initially surreal to actually see Hall and Oates in the flesh, and everyone seemed eager to find out how the years have treated the star-crossed and oft-maligned soul-rockers.

At 60 years of age, Hall looked and sounded spectacular, though most of the high notes of long ago were not reached for. In place of the impressive vocal histrionics was a more seasoned singing method as close in spirit to jazz and gospel as it was to soul. Oates seemed squatter and less mysterious sans moustache, and while this may seem shallow, you noticed these things because the Oates-sung songs, “Las Vegas Turnaround” and “How Does it Feel To Be Back,” were dated and just plain bad—you started to wonder if maybe the moustache held the man’s mojo.

Things quickly improved with stellar versions of “She’s Gone” and “One on One,” the latter incorporating a bit of Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone” with help from the Soul Violins, a string quartet that lent a human touch to some of the chilly, ’80s-era keyboard sounds emanating from the other side of the stage. Former bassist Tom “T-Bone” Wolk played out-of-place acid rock guitar solos (in place of the much tastier playing of the long-gone G.E. Smith), and his bass grooves were sorely missed—a lot of the Hall and Oates rhythm magic was gone without those bass lines. The best soloist of the night was saxophonist Charlie DeChant. An arresting sight in long, graying hair and a quirky, mustard-colored suit, Dechant, in addition to stirring up memories with re- creations of his succinct and soulful solos, nearly stole the show during a dance rave-up of “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” (A pair of would-be maneaters in the crowd held up a sign stating they most definitely would go for that—the prowling MILF brigade was definitely out in force this evening.)

While he proved beyond a doubt that he is one of the all-time great “blue-eyed soul” singers, you could definitely tell which songs Hall enjoyed singing (his solo hit “Dreamtime,” “Sara Smile”), and which ones were obligations (“Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List”). The highlight of the night was a cover of what Hall said is his favorite song, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” Hall and Oates did a powerful and stirring version of this still-relevant song, making you hear and feel the song anew. This band has always been hit and miss, equal parts heart, soul, passion and schlock. This show confirmed that only one thing is certain—soul really matters to these guys.


For the Children

Dan Zanes and Friends

The Egg, July 8

Toward the end of his set, ex-Del Fuego and current kids’-music superstar Dan Zanes commented on the dancing mass before him. It represented, he said, one of “life’s great possibilities.” Now, it was just a group of people dancing to old folk- and work- songs, but from inside the mass, it was tough to disagree. The crowd ranged in age from, let’s say, Pampers to Propecia, and everybody seemed to be having a very fine time.

If you’re a fan of music on the pop- and rock-end of the spectrum and you’ve spent any time in regional clubs in the last, say, two decades, you know that Albany doesn’t dance. (Jam-band fans, swing revivalists and anyone who knows what MDMA stands for, please hold your comments until the end of the presentation.) Saratoga dances; Northampton dances; Easthampton dances; hell, Great Barrington dances. Albany nods its head rhythmically. When Zanes toured through Albany in the mid-’90s as a solo act, he played a set at Bogie’s not terribly dissimilar to Sunday’s; you could tell the crowd dug him because the room looked like a shelf-full of bobble heads. But nobody danced.

Thing is, parents aren’t like normal people. They’re crazy. True, they’ve been made crazy. It’s not entirely their fault: Prolonged and complete mental exhaustion coupled with a crushing, evolutionarily encoded love for the very source of the exhaustion is to blame. Parents, however cool, aren’t, you know, cool. So, they danced.

When they were told to, they also jumped up and down, and they flapped their arms like chickens, and they put their hands on the shoulders of strangers and made a winding train through the Hart Theatre. You’ve seen this behavior before, I imagine, but in this case everyone was apparently sober—and no one had to suffer through an exchange of self-written vows or “Unchained Melody.” Instead, Zanes and his crew offered up an hour or so of prole folk and classic kids’ tunes (spiced by the rapper Father Goose).

The closing number—a waltz, to help calm the frenzied—was a tune which Zanes has recorded as a duet with Nick Cave. The band performed it unplugged while wending their way through the crowd toward the lobby. Now, parents, you tell me: Your flushed and happy kid is voluntarily heading in the direction of the car, pulse ebbing toward 3/4, singing a lyric that puts you in mind of not Elmo, but Nick Cave. Is life great, or what?

—John Rodat


Revved Up

The New Cars

Tanglewood, July 4

Poor Tanglewood. With declining numbers and mounting losses (is it the weather? Seiji’s departure?), there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about Tanglewood’s future. Many are saying the stately institution ought to SPAC it up and run regular rock concerts again, something that was stopped years ago when the Who drew a horde of crazy people who made a mess and scared the board of the Boston Symphony, who run the place, silly. In an editorial, the Berkshire Eagle suggested Tanglewood could book middling bands like Bright Eyes to save itself, an idea so sublimely wacky that it caused me to do a Danny Thomas spit-take of my morning coffee across my kitchen.

With its Boston pedigree and pumped-up lineup, the New Cars on the 4th of July seemed like a particularly inspired choice to usher in a new direction. Would it be that there was a scintilla of actual inspiration involved. You see, the New Cars was Tanglewood’s second choice, its first choice being Journey, who cancelled in February. Journey reportedly cited fatigue in bailing out, which I can only guess meant that Neal Schon was tired of hearing “Wheel in the Sky” being sung by someone who was not Steve Perry. And it should also be remembered that a few years ago Tanglewood booked the pale shadow of the Beach Boys as its one annual pop concert, at a time when Brian Wilson was out touring the real thing. Clueless does not begin to describe Tanglewood’s non-classical booking policy.

But still, like the acorn of the proverbial blind squirrel, the New Cars looked like a winner. And then it rained. Hard. Sheets of rain started falling late in the afternoon on the 4th, ensuring that Tanglewood’s inviting, massive lawn, one of the most rarefied, lovely spots on earth when it’s nice out, would be empty. Plus, apparently, inside ticket sales were slow; the shed was maybe one-third full at showtime, and that was with the ushers letting the poor souls with lawn tickets inside.

Nonetheless, the New Cars put on a spectacular show, to a damp, dancing, and happy, albeit small, bunch of campers. With Todd Rundgren in charge, and the rhythm section of Kasim Sulton and Prairie Prince, this was an infinitely better band than the original, which was, by all reports, sterile and boring live. It’s fair to ask why Rundgren, a legendary figure in the pantheon of modern music, would take a gig like this. I’d suggest that he’s doing it for the same reason as a dog licks its privates.

All of the Cars’ hits, minimal post-modern pop deconstructions that also happen to be great rock songs, were trotted out and blown up, real good. Original member Elliot Easton took most of the leads, and keyboardist Greg Hawkes, a breathing embodiment of Sherman just out of the wayback machine, blasted the signature synthesizer lines and appeared to be having more fun than a human should these days. Actually, they all were having a blast.

Rundgren sang the hell out of the songs and screamed, leapt, posed, and hysterically wise-cracked as retired bandleader Ric Ocasek couldn’t, or wouldn’t, have in a million years. Add in a handful of Rundgren’s own nuggets, like “I Saw the Light,” “Bang on the Drum” (which featured Easton and Hawkes on dueling mandolins), a heart-stopping “Black Maria,” and for an encore, a blazing version of Nazz’s “Open My Eyes,” and here was a concert, an old-fashioned rock show, with nothing not to like.

—Paul Rapp


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