Hall & Oates
Sunday, December 5
Better Than: That part in (500) Days of Summer.
Yeah, that’s right. Chortle all you want, but this show started with “Maneater” (featuring a lengthy sax solo from an older, bespectacled gentleman in a purple suit and hair halfway down his back) and ended with “Jingle Bell Rock,” which was also pretty great, and I hate “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Daryl Hall and John Oates are both still looking fabulous, in case you were concerned, the former clad in a leather jacket and forbidding sunglasses and generally aloof air, contributing to the feeling you get just looking at them that one of Oates’ jobs is to be there in case someone needs to bail Hall out of jail. Tonight is a Yacht Rock Greatest Hits spectacular, no new album to flog (just a retrospective box set and a New Year’s Eve TV show they’re doing on cable, which Hall promotes by crowing, “Instead of watching the ball drop, you can watch my balls drop”), and thus crowd-pleasing from beginning to end, if you’re willing to assume the crowd really wanted to hear “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” Their backing band is slick and accomplished and sufficiently mired in luxury to be able to afford to pay one guy to spend 80 percent of his time just shaking two tambourines simultaneously. It’s weird, but most of the crowd stays seated and jumps collectively to its feet only after each song ends, like an endless stream of Broadway standing O’s, until we get to “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” at which point, well, enough with the sitting down.
During a sequence of quiet-storm, dual-falsetto ballads (“She’s Gone,” “Sara Smile,” etc.), it’s suddenly evident how much of Flight of the Conchords’ affable-sensitive-guy shtick originated here, and how closely H&O actually resemble Steely Dan, except they’re smiling, not smirking. Plus it’s hard to imagine the Dan wrapping up their set with three straight Christmas songs — the first encore is a “Rich Girl”/”Kiss on My List”/”You Make My Dreams” wrecking ball, which renders the second encore both anticlimactic and yet still remarkably festive: Robbie Robertson’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” (why not), “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” (they added a chorus!), and the aforementioned, generally execrable “Jingle Bell Rock,” which gets over here thanks to the previous 90 minutes’ tremendous storehouse of goodwill. Hall at several points introduces a particularly shopworn song with some variation of “We’ve played this thousands and thousands of times now, but I still really like it,” and this, improbably, seems to be true. Go ahead, then, dudes: Write a chorus into any Christmas carol you want.
Critical Bias: I’d seen the Pee-Wee Herman Broadway show earlier that day, so I was probably particularly susceptible to nostalgia-based sentimentality.
Random Notebook Dump: I received Big Bam Boom from the Easter Bunny in 1984. I have a photorealistic memory of walking in my living room and seeing it propped up on the couch. It was likely accompanied by gumball eggs.
Out of Touch
Say It Isn’t So
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
Do What You Want, Be What You Are
I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
Kiss on My List
You Make My Dreams
Christmas Must Be Tonight
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Jingle Bell Rock
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 6, 2010