Hall and Oates Reminisce at SPAC
Daryl Hall and John Oates performed favorites from the 70s and 80s Sunday night, playing through their greatest hits on stage to a packed amphitheater and lawn. Live Nation and Saratoga Performing Arts Center hosted approximately 13,000 people, perhaps the largest gathering of its size locally since the onset of COVID closed down venues and limited live performances 18 months ago.
But before the familiar duo took the stage, British pop rock band Squeeze blasted the audience with a full hour set. Complete with a great light show, and a few of their more famous songs (including “Hourglass”), the band did far more than most openers do. They played a full headline set with powerful percussion, playful musicians, and emotional moments. They ended to a standing ovation, bringing the crowd to their feet with wild delight.
The stage was then set for Hall and Oates, a duo originally from Philadelphia best known for bluesy rock love songs in the late 70s and 80s. The visual warm-up for their set was of an old television set scrambling between channels, popping from hit to hit with teasers of what was to come.
With great anticipation, Hall and Oates then took the stage.
It was like we were partying in the 80s. Daryl Hall’s blonde locks, leather jacket, and brown sunglasses hid much of his age, as did his voice that seemed to sound exactly like it had forty years ago. Starting with “Maneater,” the band took the stage and seemed to travel back in time with their familiar sound.
John Oates initially looked a bit tense, but as the night progressed he relaxed, finding his falsetto voice and hitting his notes with relative ease. He seemed more comfortable during the opening songs to be standing to Hall’s left, but as the night progressed he moved more to the center and showed his powerhouse talent.
Song two, “Out of Touch,” felt a bit unbalanced. The large band, complete with 2 percussion sets, a keyboard, 2 bass, and 2 guitars, was a bit bottom-heavy in sound, but the fans didn’t seem to care. Dancing and screaming, the women in the audience were waving and acting like they, too, had time traveled.
Before “Method of Modern Love,” a technician came out and fixed Hall’s guitar for him. During this chatter, Hall shared his horror related to his stay at the Hilton in Albany. “So filthy you can’t even look at it,” he shared to a somewhat quieter crowd. “Saratoga is lovely, though,” he regrouped. But not before going on about his disappointment in the Hilton.
This moment recalled Cardi B’s complaints about the same hotel, and it gave the earlier artist’s complaints about poor treatment and racism a bit more credibility as Hall complained about poor service, cleanliness, and tight, cramped rooms.
After this, the band swung through more favorites before covering “You Lost that Loving Feeling.” Hall and Oates knows their demographic, and they successfully brought even the men along for the sing-along.
Hall’s vocals haven’t aged a moment. He’s able to stretch across the octave without breaking a sweat. Throughout “She’s Gone” and “Sara Smile,” his soulful vocals combined with the band to create a bluesy blue-eyed soul vibe.
Hall was at the piano for “Sara Smile,” which is where he stayed for “Is It a Star,” the song Oates’ took center stage for. The duo’s blend of sound was pleasing to the ear and was matched by some pleasing moments of their connection musically.
Before long, they were at the encore where they played through their four most popular hits: “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on my List,” “Private Eyes” and “You Make My Dreams.” The setlist was clearly a highlight of their most popular tunes, and it hit the mark with the audience that was seeking to reminisce and believe they were living again – even briefly – in earlier times.
There were no complaints at the end of this show from the crowd; they stomped and hollered and sang along. Hall and Oates are playing the same set across the country on tour, and it seems to be the absolute right decision for the fans to stick with this formula of familiar hits. It brought together folks who wanted to recall easier times, life before COVID restrictions and all the has happened in recent years. A few folks were wearing masks, but most did not, with many behaving like COVID hadn’t happened at all.
SPAC is back with all the hedonism and celebration that live music brings along with it, regardless of the pandemic.
Here’s hoping the party was a safe enough one that more like it can continue this summer and early fall.