Monday, August 31, 2015

Daryl Hall and John Oates, Mayer Hawthorne deliver a night of pop, rock and plenty of soul in Irvine

Photo credit: Kelly A. Swift
Daryl Hall and John Oates, Mayer Hawthorne
Where: Irvine Meadows
When: Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015

The resurgence and reemergence of Daryl Hall and John Oates over the past few years has been extraordinary. Among the first few times I caught the pair live in the mid-90s included one that was a free show (with the price of admission to The Orange County Fair) at Arlington Theater, while another performance played out inside an intimate venue inside a casino in Las Vegas. 

But over the years the rock 'n' soul pioneers' reach has continued to grow. Big time. In 2013, the twosome played at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, filling the 8,500-seat outdoor venue. In April 2014, there was universal praise when Hall and Oates were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Daryl Hall, left, and John Oates on Aug. 30, 2015 in Irvine.
Photo credit: Kelly A. Swift

Fast forward to a beautiful late summer night in 2015. Performing at the largest major concert venue in Orange County, CA on Aug. 30, the duo and an amazing six-member band performed a 90-minute headlining show at Irvine Meadows (with a capacity of about 16,000) packed with fans who were cheering, clapping and singing along with an energy that was never less than infectious. Frankly, I had to smile thinking about how the Philadelphia-spawned duo long ago perfected a fusion of rock, pop, and rhythm and blues that has finally been recognized with the widespread accolades  and good-sized audiences  they deserve. Just as The Beatles are widely and wisely recognized as the greatest rock band of all time, Hall and Oates shine as the most successful duo of the rock era. 
Daryl Hall on Aug. 30.
Photo credit: Kelly A. Swift

Whether performing their number one radio hits or timeless soul classics, there was a power and authenticity that kept the concert on track. When a driving dance-minded version of "Maneater" and vibrant "Out of Touch" (both No. 1 Billboard hits) kicked off the set, there was a sense this was going to be a special night. Although Hall and Oates are both in their sixties, their vocals and musical chops remain fully intact. 

Hall's still-amazing voice is often the first thing that jumps out to casual listeners, but the Irvine concert allowed the rich range of oft-hidden elements to be showcased that make Hall and Oates' singular sound so essential. Both men are terrific singers and songwriters, and Oates' outstanding rhythm and lead guitar work added magic to a number of songs, notably during the introduction of "Did It in a Minute" and "Say It Isn't So," the latter where he traded playful licks with long-time celebrated sax player Charles DeChant
John Oates rocking on Aug. 30.
Photo credit: Kelly A. Swift

Oates and Hall shared lead vocals on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," featured on the Hall and Oates 1980 album Voices. It was a powerful performance, bringing together the strengths of all the musicians and singers on stage. When the song ended, Hall couldn't help but remark: "Now that's a good song."

And plenty of good songs (make that, great songs) were embraced by the crowd all night. Oates' delivery of the early gem "Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)" from the duo's 1973 album Abandoned Luncheonette and Hall's vocal gymnastics on "Do What You Want, Be What You Are" showcased the deeper parts of the pair's rich catalog.

And of course, the crowd couldn't get enough of the hits. "She's Gone," "Sara Smile," "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," "Rich Girl"  (with guitarist Shane Theriot and Oates trading solos), "You Make My Dreams," "Kiss on My List" and the celebratory night-ending "Private Eyes" were among the many sonic riches delivered with style and sway.

Singer-songwriter Mayer Hawthorne opened the night
with a solid set of memorable songs.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift
Concert opener Mayer Hawthorne impressed with a solid and entertaining 40-minute set of pop 'n' soul that was accessible and recalled a range of influences including Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Hall and Oates too.

This was my formal in-depth introduction to Hawthorne, and I was impressed by a number of his selections, notably the irresistible ballad "I Wish It Would Rain" featuring Hawthorne's amazing falsetto vocals, the reggae-meets-R&B tune "Allie Jones" and funky set-ending "The Stars Are Ours."

Review by Robert Kinsler

Photos courtesy of Kelly A. Swift

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