Hall & Oates' Blue-Eyed Soul Needs No Bifocals

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pop duos, commonplace on the singles charts in the '70s, have become as passe as comedy pairings. But Hall & Oates, who appeared at the Music Center at Strathmore on Monday backed by a large band, remain fine ambassadors of the era of the ampersand.

When reprising the classic smash "Sara Smile," the now-60-year-old Daryl Hall showed he's still a fantastic singer, hitting every high note he attempted. Equally impressive for a guy his age were his long, flippable blond locks and his teenage dance moves -- Hall got all wiggly belting "Everytime You Go Away," a tune he wrote that was more famously covered by British crooner Paul Young. Perhapsmost amazingly, Hall now projects a dirtball image and has an almost dangerous edge that today's most successful blue-eyed soul stirrers (John Mayer, Robin Thicke) could really use.

John Oates, a 58-year-old whose contributions to the act's successes haven't ever been overt, has aged at a more human rate than his partner. But if he wants to rest on laurels, Oates was the chief songwriter of "She's Gone," a tune from 1973 that ranks with the finest singles of the decade. That song was also among the first shout-outs when Hall, unwisely but nicely, told the sold-out house that he was willing to accept requests.

Though the pair's familiar radio fare dominated most of the 100-minute set, it did include some surprise song choices -- including "Soul Violins," from the duo's 2004 disc, "Our Kind of Soul," and "Dreamtime," one of the rare singles Hall recorded without Oates. Both blended quite well with the hits.

"Every band should play this song every night," Hall said before crooning Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," during which the "War is not the answer!" line got a huge cheer. Topical or not, not everybody should play this tune, actually -- Mayer and Thicke are among those who should stay away from Gaye's songbook. Hall, however, was up to the task.

-- Dave McKenna

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