Daryl Hall and John Oates sailed into DC on Wednesday night, wowing a robust crowd at the Warner Theatre with so much soul that we all couldn’t help but leave feeling very spiritual.
These two talented gentlemen came to croon, and boy did they ever. They made me a happy man opening with “Maneater” and closing the last song of their second (!) encore with “Private Eyes,” satisfying my inner MTV child. Their hypnotizing blend of soul, funk, rock and electronics made for a pleasing musical cocktail.
But they really grabbed my attention and that of the room with the sheer power of their 70s ballads. Forty years ago, the duo released the platinum album “Abandoned Luncheonette,” their second album and two of three on Atlantic Records (for which Hall was surprisingly nostalgic Wednesday night). That album included the super smooth “She’s Gone,” a heartfelt ode to lost love so powerful that it eventually catapulted the two young musicians from Philadelphia to stardom and a permanent place in the American pop culture psyche, where they have continued to sit comfortably for four decades now.
Hall and Oates played “She’s Gone” with incredible passion; Hall stepped behind a large keyboard and, backed by Oates and a fantastic six-man soul band, whipped up the crowd in the Warner into a frenzy as surely as any gospel preacher calling out to the faithful. Hall’s voice was in tip-top form–and when he cried out, “I’d pay the devil to replace her/She’s gone, and she’s gone/Oh why, what went wrong?”, the audience was compelled to remain on their feet enthralled by the power of the musical might before them.
Thanks to my pretty partner in pop concerts Yasmin for refreshing me on all of the church analogies.
Until this, the midway point, the show had been very good, but now it was just completely off the hook. The crowd applauded rapturously, giving Hall and Oates (and company) a standing ovation that left a visible impression on the band.
“I had a good feeling about tonight,” Hall said. “I knew Washington was going to be a good show.”
The band then hit its stride, launching into “Sara Smile,” sang and performed with equal passion. Again, the audience, which had been seated for the first few songs of the show, responded with a standing ovation.
Now the audience wanted to dance, and Hall and Oates obliged them. People poured out of their seats and into the aisle. They danced their way up to the stage–peacefully I might add–and rocked out to the rest of the show.
The staff at the Warner, it must be said, were super cool about this. They too got into the spirit of things and everyone had a great time. I can’t help but think some other venues would have been too preoccupied with kicking people back into their seats. A shout-out also to the two fellows in the audience dressed like Hall and Oates from the Yacht Rock web series. (They came down to the front and earnestly boogied away as well!)
Hall and Oates continued to favor the 80s albums Voices and Private Eyes, slowly striking up a stirring (and soulful) rendition of “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” which had a calm extended opening before they rocked the hell out of the song and it’s catchy refrain. They closed out with “Rich Girl,” “You Make My Dreams” and “Kiss on My List” (see what I mean by the love for Voices and Private Eyes?) before telling us their private eyes are watching us — they’re watching our every move!
I cannot wrap this review without a nod to Charles DeChant, the longtime saxophone player for Hall and Oates, who stunned the crowd with some enchanting solos on his sax, particularly during “Maneater” and “Say It Isn’t So.” When he wasn’t strutting his stuff with his sax at the front of the stage, DeChant was in the back, playing keyboard, flute and even chimes (which were subtle but powerfully effective during “She’s Gone).
At 14 songs (several of which were mighty extended versions), the show definitely left me with wanting more from Hall and Oates. Perhaps it’s time I checked out the “Live from Daryl’s House” program, which has become an Internet phenomenon!