LEWISTON – Anyone who spent his or her early-’80s childhood within an earshot of a radio or an arm’s length of a television learned plenty of lessons from the music of Hall and Oates.
A “Maneater” is a she-cat tamed by the purr of a Jaguar. “Private Eyes” are watching you; they see your every move. And whenever you have the chance to don Zubaz and do cartwheels alongside an oversize drum kit—as Oates does in the duo’s “Out of Touch” video—do it.
But when looking for the unquestionable personification of “blue-eyed soul,” look to the sound of Philadelphia’s Daryl and John, who dealt out their vast array of radio singles, video hits and influential arrangements on Tuesday to kick off the summer’s Tuesday in the Park series in front of a sold-out crowd at Artpark.
Arriving in Lewiston following their April induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the most prolific pair in pop music history is finally getting the widespread credit they’ve always deserved. While their foreboding lyrics were sometimes fodder for rock snobs, those same lines were lauded by R&B traditionalists and they influenced next generation songwriters like Mayer Hawthorne and Brandon Flowers of the Killers. While goofball videos featured Hall emoting in front of a cartoon moon and Oates’s omnipotent mustache, their rhythms inspired some of the most unlikely compositions. One example: Their vocal cadence in the spelled-out stanza on “Method of Modern Love,” which is mirrored on revolutionary hip-hop crew Wu Tang Clan’s “Method Man.”
For further evidence of their overarching mark on music (if being associated with the Wu Tang Clan wasn’t enough), look no further than their Hall of Fame presenter, Roots drummer and fellow Philadelphian Questlove. On the surface, it would seem that the only thing the multi-platinum-selling artists and the afroed percussionist would have in common is their hometown. But dig past Hall and Oates’s flurry of hits and facial hair and you’ll find a diverse musicality, one that merged Hall’s soul leanings with Oates’s rock and blues to form a deceivingly eclectic duo—and inspire such versatile musicians as the Roots.
On their first stop of their 2014 tour, the two let such versatility shine as the sun went down over thousands off Niagara Gorge. Backed by a six-piece touring band, the still-sandy haired Hall kicked off the night with “Maneater,” giving the sprawling crowd the night’s first opportunity to sway while Oates engaged in his first solo duel with saxophonist Charles DeChant. The aforementioned “Out Of Touch” came next, which stands taller—and with heavier Fenders—when not distracting with the duo’s historically campy video personas. Such visuals always detracted from what new fans and Hall of Fame voters now recognize: Hall and Oates are tremendous musicians.
Later in the set, Oates stepped to the forefront to lead “Alone Too Long” and the DeChant-assisted “Las Vegas Turnaround” before Hall introduced the song that “took them out of Philly and introduced them to the rest of the world,” the emotional “She’s Gone.” The pair can still harmonize the song’s soft vocal foundation before Hall exclaims the song’s title with searing heartache.
Throughout the show, whether on “Sara Smile,” an extended march of “I Can’t Go For That,” or on encore offerings “Rich Girl” and “Kiss On My List,” you could hear the band’s influences. The Miracles, Temptations and Marvin Gaye all trickle forth. But across the massive and multi-aged horde that was Tuesday night’s masses, the City of Brotherly Love’s dynamic duo continues to influence—and entertain.
Opening the show for Hall and Oates was Philly-based singer-songwriter Mutlu, who offered acoustic-led solos off EP “The Dream Book” like “One Life With You,” and a soulful cover of the Jimmy Cox blues standard, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.”