Hanson were born to perform. Their talent, energy and charisma shone brilliantly onstage at the State Theater Wednesday night, as they played two hours worth of their catalogue, old and new, to a packed house. Over halfway through their US “Musical Ride” tour, Hanson did what they have been doing best for over 14 years now- delivered a slice of sunshine to their fans through their positively upbeat, catchy pop tunes and energetic stage show.
Before we get to the show, let’s get a little back-story. When I first learned Hanson was on tour this time around I wasn’t immediately on board. While I am quick to admit I was a big fan back when they released their major label debut Middle of Nowhere back in 1997, like so many friendships, we grew apart as the years went on. After Middle of Nowhere they went in a bit of a different direction musically, a little more prog-rock, and my interest waned. But I never lost my affection for their positive image and pop sensibility. The door was still open a crack.
So I decided to look into what they had been up to lately. I learned they had released an album in 2010 called Shout It Out, and to my delight it sounded like a return to their roots. Shout It Out is pure pop delight- a tip of the hat to their musical inspirations- Motown, classic Rock & Roll, some R&B vocal stylings, blended together in a delicious pop melange. It makes me smile. (Hanson does that a lot.) When I read about their “Musical Ride Tour” my interest was piqued- the idea was that fans could vote for the setlist for each show. Now at first I thought- “Wouldn’t every show just be ‘MMMBop’ twenty times in a row?” Perhaps Hanson thought of this too… because there were restrictions on the idea. Basically, fans had the chance to vote for one album for the band to perform at each stop on the tour, through the band’s website. Again, the image in my mind was a tour full of Middle of Nowhere, every night, and perhaps they thought of this possibility too. When I went to their website to vote for the show I was going to attend (State Theater, Falls Church) I saw that I only had three albums to choose from for this show, and to my chagrin, Middle Of Nowhere was not one of them. Shout It Out, their most recent album, was one of the choices, which I eagerly voted for, but alas it did not win. The winning album for Wednesday night’s show was their 2004 release Underneath.
Going into this show I was not sure what was in store. Not very familiar with the album Underneath, and not too enamored with what I did know of the album, I hoped that they would make it interesting, and crossed my fingers that a few songs from Middle of Nowhere would make it on the setlist. Hanson far exceeded my expectations, and delivered an evening of non-stop pop bliss. The audience was, not surprisingly, about 90% females in their twenties. There were a sprinkling of guys in the audience, though, and I was surprised to see that not all of them were dragged there by girlfriends- some of them were singing along to all the songs along with all the screaming girls. It was interesting to look at the audience now, as the last time I saw Hanson was at Nissan Pavilion (now Jiffy Lube Live) in 1998 on their Middle of Nowhere tour. Of the thousands in that audience, over half were screaming girl-children (I was a screaming girl-teenager), so I guess this is what they look like grown up.
When Hanson came onstage it was to a sea of jubilant, almost deafening screams and cheers. They opened their set appropriately with the song “Musical Ride” off of their latest album Shout It Out. From there they jumped right into the bouncy, piano-charged “Waiting For This,” from the same album. The tone from the start was high energy, both onstage and in the audience. Isaac took lead vocals on the next song, “A Minute Without You” from Middle of Nowhere, and had the crowd jumping, dancing and singing along to every word. One of the high points of the first half of the set came next with the soulful, cowbell-infused, bopping dance number “Thinking ‘Bout Something,” Taylor’s voice bringing to mind an early George Michael as it dipped and soared with attitude. It is at least worth mentioning that this trio of brothers is seriously good-looking. It only adds to the experience of pop-joy to have they eye-candy that is the Hanson brothers performing so close in front of you. I don’t think I’ve ever had this particular experience at a show before, but I think I spent a whole minute (maybe more…) gazing at Taylor and thinking “He has perfect teeth!” Just saying.
The group started into the album of the night Underneath with the opener of the album, “Strong Enough to Break”, but didn’t stick to the track order of the album from there. A quiet moment came mid-set when everyone except the youngest brother, drummer Zac, left the stage, and he came up front to the piano for a sweet, solo rendition of “Broken Angel.” Even though a large portion of their set was dedicated to Underneath, an album I didn’t own or previously have much interest in, there was never a moment in the night where I felt unengaged. They poured enthusiasm and heart into every song, and really gave the audience their all. It was so fun to watch the brothers in action- it’s so clear they have fun doing what they do, playing together and putting on a show for their audience. Their vocals blend seamlessly together in tight harmonies, and they are all talented and lively instrumentalists.
Waves of joy were palpable in the crowd when they launched into “Thinking of You,” from Middle of Nowhere, and the energy crescendoed into the pop gem “Where’s The Love,” stirring the audience into a frenzy. They jumped forward in time for one more from their latest album, the sexy, doo-wop-infused dance-along “Give A Little.” And they finally did play that song they became so famous for, “MMMBop.” Their voices may be lower now, but a great pop song is a great pop song, and they sounded as strong as ever.
They ended their set with the bouncing “If Only,” and had everyone in the house, themselves included, jumping up and down. For an all-too-short encore they had the audience sing/shouting along to “Hey.” Of course, they left their fans screaming for more.
Waiting For This
A Minute Without You
Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’
And I Waited
Strong Enough To Break
Dancin’ In The Wind
Get Up And Go
When You’re Gone
Hand In Hand
Thinking Of You
Where’s The Love
Penny & Me
Give A Little
Lost Without Each Other