Hall and Oates at VanAndel Arena: May 9, 2015

11 May



Hall and Oates, backed by a smooth yet versatile six-piece support group delivered a tight 14-song set that was packed with hits from set opener “Maneater” through “Private Eyes” which closed the show at the end of a second two-song encore.  The large, albeit somewhat sedate crowd enjoyed every minute of the crisply-paced set. Like more than a few bands that hit commercial peaks in the early 80s, Hall and Oates’ legacy is a little tainted by memories of  ridiculous album covers and cheesy, low-budget videos from the early days of MTV.  However, three decades past their  heyday, the act continues to put on a fine live show, one that is head and shoulders above the standard legacy act coasting its way through one faceless casino or state fair gig after another .  In fact, their short but sweet (just under 90 minutes)Van Andel Arena appearance on Saturday night delivered a better, more vital show than many acts half their age and certainly stronger than most fans probably had a right to expect.


Rock solid.  If you’ve caught an episode of Hall’s increasingly popular cable franchise “Live at Daryl’s House,” you know that Hall, 68, but looking two decades younger, not only has chops to spare, but also functions as a relaxed but charming frontman.  This was never more so than when reminiscing about a blizzard-marred GR show decades ago. A stripped down stage, consisting of layered red curtains and a minimal light show provided the intimate vibe of a theater gig, which befits the band’s personality.

Alternating between rhythm guitar and keys, Hall was a genial ringmaster who also helped give the arena the feel of a much more intimate room. He’s not the most athletic or overstated performer but his low key vibe resonates with charm.  In fact, with his long hair, beard and constant amused grins, he’d make the perfect choice to play The Dude should anybody compose a musical version of “The Big Lebowski.”   There was no doubt he was enjoying himself and that spilled over to the appreciative crowd. Oates, also looking much younger than his age echoed the mood and both were in fine vocal form, harmonizing well when called for and hitting all the right notes.  The crack band which featured lead guitar, bass, drums, percussion, keys and woodwinds created a sophisticated, layered background.  Removed from some of the glossy 80s production, the songs take on the timeless tint of classic Philly soul songcraft and shine with more depth than fans might have remembered from the days when they heard Casey Kasem introducing them on “American Top 40”.


An early romp through somewhat overlooked “Private Eyes” standout “Did It in a Minute” and mid-set run of songs from the semi-classic 1973 album “Abandoned Luncheonette” which included Oates taking a lead vocal on “Las Vegas Turnaround” sated fans looking for deeper cuts.  However, it was a nearly 12-minute jam on the soulful “I Can’t Go For That” that provided the greatest peak, allowing the band, to stretch out and flash its considerable chops.


Long time band member Charlie DeChant is a fan favorite and its easy to see why.  His work on woodwinds provided many of the instrumental highlights, never more so than on “I Can’t Go For That” where his flute added sophisticated textures to the early verses while his jazzy sax solos were the highlight of the jam that closed the main set.


A Hall and Oates show isn’t going to change your life, but there’s also no way you can accuse these guys of coasting on nostalgia.  Easygoing but never lazy, the arrangements were fresh, the performances tight and everybody was engaged.  With nothing to prove to anybody, Hall and Oates come off as an act that simply enjoys the process of playing some really great songs in a live setting, interacting as a band and seeing what new pleasures can be coaxed out of old chestnuts each night.  In doing so, they gave the crowd a surprisingly vital show and one I suspect many would be happy to check out when they pass through town again.  A-


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