Hall & Oates Bring the Groove To Hershey, Pennsylvania

photo by Mick Rock
photo by Mick Rock

Hall & Oates at Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Videos by American Songwriter

If another artist started a set off with a hit as big as “Maneater”, they would probably be committing a serious folly in bringing the big guns out so soon. On Monday night at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Daryl Hall and John Oates played “Maneater” right out of the box and then followed that up with “Out Of Touch” and “Say It Isn’t So.” That’s the point when you, the audience member, start to realize the breadth and quality of their catalog of hits.

Having that catalog is one thing. Delivering it in a fresh and fiery fashion nearly forty years after they first bust out of Philly into the mainstream is another, and Hall & Oates managed that again and again on Monday night. Those songs seem so effortless when they come bopping out of the radio speakers, but watching and hearing this duo live is a reminder of the brains, heart, and, of course, soul that they brought to each and every one of those magical singles.

That underpinning soul, as well as the solidity of the songcraft, help to make Hall & Oates’ classics seem a lot less dated than their ’80s competitors. Those intangibles afford opportunities for the duo to subtly transform the songs in concert from their glossier original renditions. During Monday’s show, “Out Of Touch” became battering rock. Underrated gem “You Did It In A Minute” was played as power pop of which The Knack would have been proud. And “I Can’t Go For That” turned into an extended funk workout.

The eight-piece band handled all these transitions easily, with the duo’s longtime saxman Charlie DeChant taking several charismatic solos along the way. The two leaders, meanwhile, made for a fascinating study in contrasts. Oates was a steadying presence, playing the occasional quick guitar solo, providing soothing harmonies, and taking the lead on a couple of the band’s ’70s songs, all while maintaining an unruffled demeanor. Hall cut it all loose, especially once he got behind the electric piano about halfway through, swaying his head and going on those silky bottom-to-top vocal runs for which the term “blue-eyed soul” seems to have been invented.

You could see why this partnership has worked for so long. But, better than that, you could hear it when the pair started trading vocals on their classic tear-jerker “She’s Gone”, weaving in and out of each other’s path with the confidence of two guys who have done it many times before and the feeling of two guys who still enjoy the stuffing out of doing it.

The hits kept on coming: “Rich Girl” and “You Make My Dreams Come True” for the first encore, “Kiss On My List” and “Private Eyes” for the second. At one point in that stretch, Oates, reveling in the torrid applause of the audience, commented, “It’s a beautiful thing.” Hall answered, “It’s a Pennsylvania thing,” referencing their return to their home state. Both true, but more to the point, it was a Hall & Oates thing on Monday night in Hershey, and it was as vital and pure as ever.

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