Words By Andy Johnson
Opinion on Thursday night’s sold-out Hall & Oates performance at Wolf Trap depends on your appreciation for indulgent saxophone solos. If you find them cloying and obnoxious, it’s for the best you didn’t attend the show. But if you acknowledge sax solos as part of the rich tapestry of American “rock’n’soul” music, to use the pair’s term, Hall & Oates continued to make your dreams come true.
The duo, accompanied by six additional musicians, clearly understands their audience. During the evening’s 90-minute performance, they didn’t pack their set with any new songs. They didn’t play any covers. What their audience wanted was a straight-up, no bullshit, greatest hits set, and that’s exactly what the waning emperors of American blue-eyed soul delivered to a throng of middle-aged fans.
Having recently been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hall & Oates are at ease with their legacy. Darryl Hall, who still maintains his golden locks deep into his seventh decade, referred to their late 70’s and early 80’s albums throughout the evening, each time garnering a respectable amount of applause from the audience. While he and John Oates can no longer hit the highest notes in their soulful songs thanks to thirty years of wear-and-tear on their vocal cords, they have physically fared far better than many of their contemporaries.
And as for the greatest hits –of course they’re still great. Opener “Maneater” started the evening out on a positive note. The Oates-heavy “Back Together Again” recalled 70s-era Bowie. The back-to-back combination of “She’s Gone” and “Sara Smile” had the audience dancing in the aisles. The highlight of the evening was the incredible 10-minute solo to close out “I Can’t Go For That” that saw saxophonist Charles DeChant strut across the stage, electrifying the audience while Hall scatted nonsense lyrics.
The band returned for to play an encore of crowd-favorites “Rich Girl” and “You Make My Dreams,” followed by a second encore of “Kiss On My List” that transitioned into “Private Eyes.” Each of these hits sounded nearly as crisp as they did thirty years ago (some vocal limits aside), and several featured clutch sax solos from DeChant. Indeed, this was a very fun evening. I don’t have any overt criticism of the show other than it was clear that Hall & Oates were relying heavily on their band, most obviously lead guitarist Shane Theriot and DeChant, to carry them throughout extended portions of the show.