Hall and Oates make fans’ dreams come true at Al­len­town Fair

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By John J. Moser

In the mid-1970s and ’80s, Hall and Oates be­came a huge suc­cess by play­ing to the heart of Amer­i­can mu­sic fans: They of­fered pleas­ant pop songs, many tinged with R&B and blue-eyed soul, that ap­pealed to the masses — even if none of them chal­lenged bor­ders or broke new ground.

Nearly 50 years since Hall and Oates’ break­through hits and 35 years af­ter their com­mer­cial peak, they are now the best-sell­ing duo in mu­sic his­tory. So who would ex­pect them to change that for­mula as head­liner of the Al­len­town Fair grand­stand on Sunday?

And they didn’t, in­stead giv­ing the au­di­ence of what ap­peared to be about 8,500 what it un­doubt­edly wanted: es­sen­tially a great­est-hits show that, to para­phrase their lyrics, made the au­di­ence’s dreams come true.

Of the 15 songs Hall and Oates played in a 96-minute set, 14 were Top 10 hits from the mid-1970s to the mid-80s. The duo played all six No. 1 hits, and every one of their gold records.

That’s not to say every song was played per­fectly.

Backed by a six-man band, Hall and Oates opened with two of those chart-top­pers: “Maneater” and “Out of Touch,” both from the early 1980s, when Hall and Oates ruled the ra­dio.

But they were al­tered: The for­mer slower, lighter, and not as men­ac­ing; the lat­ter at a slightly dif­fer­ent pace. But the vibe of both, and Hall’s voice, were in­stantly rec­og­niz­able.

Just as those songs gave a feel­ing of fa­mil­iar­ity, Hall greeted the crowd by say­ing, “Hello Al­len­town — this is home ter­ri­tory for us. You know that — you know where we come from,” re­fer­ring to the singers’ roots in the area and for­mer Philadelph­ia base.

Hall even in­tro­duced “Adult Ed­u­ca­tion” by say­ing, “I went to high school around here [Pottstown’s Owen J. Roberts High] so that’s what this is about.”

That song was tweaked into a jazzy-rock ar­range­ment, and on “Method of Mod­ern Love,” Hall at times sang so stac­cato that it was al­most scat.

But Hall, 72, told the crowd that he and Oates, 71, were “go­ing to play a lot of stuff tonight — hit a lot of eras.” And in­deed they did.

The rest of the set was that great­est hits run, played mostly just as you re­mem­bered them. And part of that was be­cause Hall’s voice lit­er­ally didn’t sound as if it had changed at all.

And many still had the at­trac­tion of all those years ago.

“Say It Isn’t So” from 1983 was per­haps just a bit more mod­ern and ma­ture, but the dis­tinc­tive sax solo from Charles DeChant, who has played with the duo since 1976, was the same.

“One on One” from 1987 most cap­tured that 1980s light rock feel, and Hall even sang falsetto on it.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame duo’s cover of The Right­eous Broth­ers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which in 1980 res­ur­rected Hall and Oates’ string of hits, sounded closer to the orig­i­nal than ever — which served to spot­light Oates’ deeper vo­cals at the start.

“She’s Gone,” the 1973 break­through hit that be­came an even big­ger hit upon re-re­lease in 1977 “took us out of Philly and took us into the world,” Hall said. It was so close to its orig­i­nal pre­sen­ta­tion that the au­di­ence, many of them 50some­things, was groov­ing to it. And they cheered it strongly.

Hall sat at a grand pi­ano and Oates took over lead gui­tar to play 1976’s “Sara Smile,” the song that truly turned Hall and Oates into a top act. While it was em­bel­lished — Hall did a falsetto-and-pi­ano coda — it, too, kept very close to the orig­i­nal vibe. And that, too, was richly re­warded by the crowd.

The clos­est thing to a sur­prise all night was the 1974 deep cut (“from the early days!” Hall said) “Is It a Star.” But the song wasn’t more than a cu­rios­ity. The duo stretched it out, and it gave Oates an­other chance to shine on gui­tar (he did well), but it was ob­vi­ous why it wasn’t a hit.

The main set closed with the 1981 No. 1 gold hit “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” and it’s such as good song, it was wise that Hall and Oates played it pretty much like the orig­i­nal, catch­ing the sinewy, funky groove that re­minded ev­ery­one why it was such a hit. And again the sax part was nailed.

The song stretched to 10 min­utes, and with the au­di­ence stand­ing, Hall and Oates had it sing the bridge, which it gladly did.

In such a con­cise set, there were a few more songs for which Hall and Oates seem­ingly could have made room. They skipped the pleas­ant 1982 Top 10 hit “Did It in a Minute,” and one of the few Hall and Oates songs that had an edge: 1983’s “Fam­ily Man,” maybe be­cause it wasn’t writ­ten by them?

Also skipped was the duo’s last Top 10 hit, 1988’s “Ev­ery­thing Your Heart De­sires.”

But the en­core was packed with some of its big­gest songs.

It started with “Rich Girl,” Hall and Oates’ 1977 gold hit that be­came the first to reach No. 1. It, too, stayed in its clas­sic pre­sen­ta­tion.

Then two more No. 1 gold hits, “Kiss on My List” and “Pri­vate Eyes,” both from 1981.

The au­di­ence cheered the bouncy open­ing notes of the for­mer, and started danc­ing and clap­ping above its heads, and the duo seam­lessly segued into the lat­ter.

It closed with a song that was more of a state­ment, a sixminute ver­sion of “You Make My Dreams.”

And in­deed, Hall and Oates seemed to, as the song says, make its fans’ dreams come true.

Morn­ing Call Le­high Val­ley Mu­sic reporter and columnist John J. Moser can be reached at 610-820-6722 or [email protected] .com

JANE THERESE/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

Of the 15 songs Hall and Oates played in a 96-minute set, 14 were Top 10 hits from the mid-1970s to the mid-80s.

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