Hall & Oates Allen Event Center Monday, September 10
See also: The fans of Hall & Oates
A couple of years ago, I did an experiment in the offices of another paper I worked for. I took out the Hall & Oates box set, Do What You Want Be What You Are, and put on disc three, arguably the "best" of the four-disc set, containing "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," "Maneater" and "Private Eyes." As the songs played, I noted that many of my co-workers responded in the same way: Nodding heads, looks of recognition, the hand claps on "Private Eyes." I had turned my office into a spontaneous dance party, and proved my theory that people have this strange automated response when a Hall & Oates song comes on.
That was true at Allen Event Center last night, where Hall & Oates' sold-out show drew close to 4,000 people. H&O don't really have any new material, and I doubt people would want to hear it. They were there for the hits. Hall & Oates knew this.
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So, they played them: "Maneater," "Rich Girl," "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," "Sara Smile," "You Make My Dreams." Hall's voice is still pretty airtight, though further removed from the heavenly falsetto of his '70s R&B days. But that's where Hall & Oates came from: They were progressive R&B and soul before they were the pop-hit-making machines of the early '80s. And their contributions in that era provided the foundation for even bigger pop songs, like when Michael Jackson re-purposed the bassline from "I Can't Go For That" for "Billie Jean."
There wasn't much interplay between Hall and Oates onstage, which led me to ask some bigger existential questions: Do they still even like each other? Is this just a nostalgia tour? Do they have separate tour buses? Does only Hall get to wear sunglasses?
Their backing band, namely the sax player, filled the gaps in conversation for them. I lost track of how many extended sax solos there were, but one of the guys in the suite next to me nearly plunged over the balcony to his death, air-saxing. There was a lot of "wedding dancing" last night.
They closed their second encore with "Private Eyes" and we all filed back into Allen Event Center's well-scrubbed chain store cul-de-sac, satisfied that we'd heard the hits. I couldn't help but wonder if this show would have done as well if it were in Dallas, or if suburbia is now where Hall & Oates' legacy lives. Still, despite the fact that their catalog has become the soundtrack to karaoke rooms and wedding receptions, the pop craft of their songs, that instant recognition that lures people into an impromptu dance party in someone's office: that is why we were all there last night.