Daryl Hall and John Oates haven’t made an album together in over a decade...but it almost doesn’t matter.
Well, for starters, Hall & Oates were already rock’s best-selling pop duo by the early Eighties, when songs from the platinum-certified albums Voices, Private Eyes, and H20 hurdled and hopscotched to the top of the Billboard charts.
Between 1983 and 1986 alone the blue-eyed soul brothers dropped their first greatest hits compilation (Rock ‘n’ Soul, Part 1), recorded Big Bam Boom, cut a sensational concert album with The Temptations (Live at The Apollo), appeared on the USA for Africa charity single “We Are the World,” and performed at Live Aid in their native Philadelphia.
The irons cooled for the songwriters after jumping labels from RCA to Arista: 1988’s Ooh, Yeah! and 1990’s Change of Season yielded minor singles…but were lost in an FM quagmire of bubblegum pop, dance music, metal, and pseudo-grunge.
But 1997’s Marigold Sky remains an overlooked masterpiece, and Do It For Love and Our Kind of Soul saw Hall & Oates going acoustic (and retouching their R&B roots) for loyal boomer listeners. The guys tapped into the “instant live” phenomenon in 2005 by releasing official soundboard recordings of their European gigs. A year later, they recreated their version of “Jingle Bell Rock” for the holiday-themed effort Home for Christmas. In 2009 the four-disc box set Do What You Want, Be What You Are compiled the duo’s six #1 songs, a smattering of other Top Tens, and sundry soul classics for collectors…and casual fans who’d missed out on the vinyl and cassette tapes of the glory days.
Going separate ways allowed Hall & Oates to reinvent themselves for the new millennium. Hall became an avid restorer of old buildings, one of which served as the original site for his wildly successful Live From Daryl’s House webcast. Since the program’s 2007 debut Hall has jammed with such legends as Todd Rundgren, Kenny Loggins, Smokey Robinson, and Cheap Trick—and newer acts like Neon Trees and Fitz & The Tantrums. He also dropped his first solo album in ages, Laughing Down Crying, in 2011.
Meanwhile, John Oates went from soul-funk to Americana. Now residing in Aspen, the guitarist shed his signature mustache and went the Southern rock / country route on 2011’s Mississippi Mile, 2014’s Good Road to Follow, and 2018’s Arkansas. He published the memoir A Change of Seasons last year.
So forgive Hall & Oates if they aren’t besting Justin Bieber and Katy Perry on today’s pop charts. It really doesn’t matter: These seventy-year-old superstars are doing just fine playing the ‘70s and ‘80s songs everyone knows on stages all over the globe.
Last summer the “Did It in a Minute” duo hit the road with Tears for Fears. This time out, they’re traveling with Train. We caught the dynamic double-bill in the Buckeye State at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on May 22…and jotted down a few reasons why you should catch ‘em, too.
1. They’re sticking to the hits, mostly.
Where some bands might use a 35-date tour to force-feed audiences eight or nine tracks from their just-released new album, Hall & Oates have drawn up a set list that—for the most part—adheres to the hits we all remember hearing on the radio and seeing on MTV (or Friday Night Videos or Casey Kasem’s American’s Top Ten). From pulsating, primal opener “Maneater,” electrifying “Out of Touch,” and sultry “Say It Isn’t So” to energetic encores “Kiss On My List,” “Rich Girl,” "Private Eyes," and “You Make My Dreams,” Daryl and John had Cleveland fans dancing all night at Quicken Loans Arena.
2. They’ve got a new song.
Okay, so there’s no new album in the works for these War Babies. But Hall & Oates do have a brand-new digital single on offer in “Philly Forget Me Not,” which they wrote with Train front man Pat Monahan.
3. The Train team-up is a highlight.
Monahan joined Daryl and John late in their set for a medley that included their own “Wait for Me” (from 1979’s X-Static) and Train hit “Calling All Angels” (from 2003’s My Private Nation. Some onstage collaborations sound unnatural and disconnected, but the older chaps synced organically with middle-aged Monahan, whose wide-range pipes served the music well. Maybe that’s because Monahan’s no stranger to the group: He’s been on Daryl’s show before.
4. The Hall & Oates band is sublime.
Hall (dressed in leather jacket and aviator sunglasses) strummed a Telecaster guitar for the first half of the engagement, then shifted to keyboards. Oates worked over a butterscotch-colored guitar (and later wielded black and grey six-strings) and sang lead on 1973 smash “She’s Gone” and 1974 deep-track “Is it a Star?” but mostly he handled backup and harmony vocals to Hall’s still-sharp leads. Longtime pal Charlie DeChant contributed tasty sax solos (and occasional keyboard chords), while lead guitarist Shane Theriot shredded on a green Stratocaster. Drummer Brian Dunne, bassist Klyde Jones, and percussionist Porter Carroll comprised a robust rhythm section, underpinning groovy workout jam “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and pretty “Sara Smile” with sinewy measures and busy beasts.
Monahan has a good relationship with Ohio. So good, in fact, that when the Erie, P.A. vocalist heard reports of shoddy sound at last year’s outdoor show in Cuyahoga Falls, he booked a free “make-up” concert for lawn listeners shortchanged by the murky mix.
But there were no technical glitches for Train at Quicken Loans Arena, where Monahan and friends skipped and sauntered through easygoing, uplifting gems like “If It’s Love,” “Get to Me,” “Meet Virginia,” and “Angel in Blue Jeans.”
With guitarist Jimmy Stafford and drummer Scott Underwood long-gone, the California ensemble now belongs to conductor / co-founder Monahan—who’s since brought on bunch of capable players in Luis and Hector Maldonado (guitar and bass), Drew Shoals (drums), and Jerry Becker (keys). The boys (and backup singer gals) shone brightly on Save Me, San Francisco hits “Marry Me” and “Hey, Soul Sister,” Tom Petty tribute “Freefalling,” and the brand-new track “Call Me Sir.” 2012 entry “Drive By” kept the audience enraptured, while 2001 goody “Drops of Jupiter” sated their souls. And yes, they did that "Heart and Soul" number, too.
“You’re better than Boston!” chirped Monahan, referencing the ongoing NBA Eastern Conference Finals (between the Cavaliers and Celtics).
So catch Hall & Oates while you still can. Along with Rocky Balboa, they’re Philly’s favorite sons…and an American institution. Who knows how much longer the proprietors of the Abandoned Luncheonette will keep the soul shop open for business?