Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 31, 2015)
Though their chart-topping days reside far behind them, Daryl Hall and John Oates have enjoyed a bit of a comeback in their older years. With a recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a lot of respect from younger hitmakers, Hall and Oates probably are as popular now as they’ve been in the last 30 years.
We find the duo on-stage in Ireland for 2015’s Hall and Oates: Live in Dublin. Shot at the Olympia Theatre in July 2014, the pair play a slew of their hits as well as a smattering of lesser-known tracks.
From 1973’s Abandoned Luncheonette, we locate “She’s Gone” and “Las Vegas Turnaround”. 1975’s Daryl Hall and John Oates offers “Sara Smile”, and 1976’s Bigger Than Both Of Us provides “Rich Girl”, “Back Together Again” and “Do What You Want, Be What You Are”. “It’s Uncanny” showed up on a 1977 compilation called No Goodbyes.
With that we head to 1980’s comeback album Voices for “Kiss On My List” and “You Make My Dreams”. 1981’s Private Eyes continues the hit parade with the title song and “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”. Off of 1982’s H2O, we locate “Maneater” and “Family Man”, while the 1983 hits collection Rock ‘n Soul Part I features “Say It Isn’t So”. Finally, we discover “Out of Touch” from 1984’s Big Bam Boom.
I loved Hall and Oates back in their early-mid 80s heyday, and I still enjoy their material decades later. I saw them live in their prime a handful of times and thought they put on great concerts back in the 1980s.
However, I felt less excited with more recent experiences. I’ve gone to a few Hall and Oates shows in the 21st century and thought these concerts were distinctly, decidedly, wholly… okay. Hall and Oates put on perfectly competent performances but never did more than that, so the shows felt a little on the perfunctory side.
Does Dublin rise above that level? Nope – it gives us a professional concert but not anything more than that.
Once a thing of beauty, Hall’s voice has deteriorated over the years. Of course, some of that seems inevitable; it’s tough to find performers in their sixties who still sound like they did in their twenties and thirties.
That said, Hall’s vocal decline seems more pronounced than most, perhaps because he had such a remarkable voice in younger days. I don’t want to leave the impression that Hall can’t sing at all or that he now boasts a Dylan-style croak - indeed, he manages some decent leads at times.
Still, it can become somewhat painful to hear a one-time amazing talent strain and struggle so hard to make it through these songs. Hall’s vocals usually remain acceptable, but they don’t hold up as well as one would hope.
As for the overall performances of the songs, they seem fairly lackluster. To some degree, I find it hard to fault Hall and Oates for this, as they must be damned sick of playing these songs.
However, scores of older bands deal with the same issue and manage more pep and vigor when they play those golden oldies for the kabillionth time. Hall and Oates look a bit more bored with the hits than their peers, and they comes through via these somewhat mediocre renditions. Even though they alter the arrangements, the overall impact remains less than enthralling.
Back in the 80s, Hall and Oates boasted a lively band, but that no longer seems to be the case. Oh, the musicians show more than adequate talent, but they always feel like “hired hands”. Sax player Charlie DeChant remains the only holdover from the old days, and the anonymous sidemen with him can’t add much flair to the proceedings. They play their parts, stay in the background and fail to make an impact.
Is it fair for me to criticize Hall and Oates because they’re no longer as good as they were 30 years ago? Maybe not, as it’s unreasonable to expect older acts to maintain the same vitality they boasted in their youth.
However, I go to a lot of concerts, and most involve performers as old or older than Hall and Oates. I don’t leave those shows with the same level of disappointment that I encounter here. I’d love to see a concert video from the 80s and would snap that up in a heartbeat. Circa 2014, however, Hall and Oates put on a less than scintillating concert.