A shining hope for pop music: Hall & Oates at the 1STBANK Center

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Hall & Oates @ 1STBANK Center | 3/3/14

With no opening act, Daryl Hall and John Oates took the stage with their six backing musicians. Parts of this band have been together for a long time, including sax player Charles DeChant and veteran studio and touring guitarist Paul Pesco.

It would be difficult to identify any high point in the show -- it was like a greatest-hits record come to life. And they changed many of the songs enough to keep things interesting for the audience and for themselves. Things kicked off with the 1982 hit "Maneater." It was a striking reminder of the way Hall & Oates really synthesized jazz and R&B and rock without subsuming the virtues of any of those musical forms.

Often remembered as just a good pop band, Hall & Oates displayed versatility on rocked-up renditions of songs like "Out of Touch." The band was in fine form and mood; in an unexpectedly heated moment in the playing, Oates did his signature leg kick, and women nearby went crazy. Apparently at 64, he can still have that effect. "Say It Isn't So" has long been one of the band's better, night-hued numbers, and it felt expansive and uplifting despite essentially being a downtempo R&B song. Following that with an even more funk-inflected rendition of "Method of Modern Love" seemed a perfect move in the sequence of the show. It worked as a reverse in tone and pace, from bright and earthy to dusky and ethereal, but dense with feeling throughout. Halfway through the show, Daryl Hall told us that the whole world is high school but that there had to be a way past all of that. There are petty conflicts and judgments and stupid grudges that seem so much a part of adult life between people and between groups of people and between nations. Following those comments, he and the band went into a song from the 1973 album Abandoned Luncheonette: the wry "Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)." Except for maybe some of the specific socio-cultural references, it still seemed relevant, because that same sort of human interaction still goes down. Before "All Too Long," Oates told us he missed the '70s because he had more fun in the '70s than in the '80s.

"We won't go into why," Hall quipped.

When the hour-plus set ended, with a lively "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," it came as a bit of a surprise. But the guys came back for two encores, each sounding better than the earlier parts of the show. There was some unwanted echo in the mix earlier in the evening, but by the time of the encores, it was dialed in extremely well, and "Private Eyes," which closed the whole performance, seemed vivid and especially affecting. If this is what pop music can be -- well-crafted, sonically ambitious but unpretentious and able to linger in the mind without relying on cheap hooks -- then let's have more of it.

Hall & Oates Set List at 1stBank Center - March 3, 2014

1.Maneater 2. Out of Touch 3. Say It Isn't So 4. Method of Modern Love 5. Adult Education 6. All Too Long 7. Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song) 8. She's Gone 9. Sara Smile 10. I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)

Encore 1 11. Rich Girl 12. You Make My Dreams Come True

Encore 2 13. Your Kiss Is On My List 14. Private Eyes

Critic's Notebook

Bias: Loved Hall & Oates growing up and this was a nice reminder that a lot of that music has aged fairly well. And so have the people playing it.

Random Detail: Comment heard about saxophone player Charles DeChant: "That sax player looks rad. He looks like the sax player from The Muppets."

By the Way: Some great, reasonably-priced merch with designs from back in the day down to a 1985 tour shirt design that still says "Live From '85" on the back. Look at Paul Pesco's and Charles DeChant's credentials. Pretty impressive stuff.

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