Concert review: Daryl Hall and John Oates at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater 

I went into Saturday night's Daryl Hall and John Oates show with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was excited about a trip down '80s nostalgia lane. On the other, I felt a certain level of trepidation, because it's hard to judge how a nostalgia trip will go, especially when the band in the driver's seat hasn't produced new music in over a decade, and all their best-known Top 40 singles were released between 1976 and 1988. [Text by Leilani, photos by Phil.]

Was it a greatest hits parade? Yes, for the most part. Did it sometimes feel kind of cheesy and a little too AC smooth for under-45 consumption? Yes, indeed. Did I regret spending my Saturday night with Hall and Oates? I didn’t, though it helped that the show was over by around 10 p.m.

Most of the crowd in the at-capacity theater had at least 10 years on me, but amid the 40-plus fans were younger hipster types drawn by the lure of seeing one of the early purveyors of yacht rock. The band's resurgence in popularity over the past several years was also engendered by viral sensations like Live from Daryl's House and indie bands like The Bird and the Bee, who not only claim influence but produced a 2010 tribute album of super saccharine Hall & Oates covers with Oates appearing as a surprise guest.

The tall and lanky Hall sported a shaggy yet well-maintained mane of silvery blond hair, black leather biker's jacket over a Live from Daryl's House T-shirt (because as hip as he's become, he has to market his brand), stylishly shabby jeans, sunglasses and cool 'tude, and he played guitar and sang through most of the set, bringing out a keyboard that he pounded on during the show-ending "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," and during both encores as well. His compact compatriot, Oates, wore a nondescript black-jeans-and-vest combo, gray tee, and traded between three or four guitars throughout the night, as well as singing back-up and even lead for a few songs.

The duo -- who hit the stage a little before 9 p.m. -- were backed by a tight six-piece, among them, Orlando native saxophonist and keys man Charles DeChant, who sported a long white ponytail and gray suit, and delivered his sexy sax parts with gentlemanly finesse and a little bit of bravado, demanding his due after a few particularly wailing parts; and Everett Bradley, an energetic effervescent presence who jammed some mean percussion, sang back-up vocals and busted out seriously fly dance moves all throughout the show.

In a live setting and with three men on guitars, many of the upbeat groove numbers sounded looser and more rocking, with a few moments — namely, “Everything Your Heart Desires” — that verged into territory a little too AC slick for my taste. The R&B swing and blue-eyed soulful sway of the music didn't get the crowd going — most were seated throughout the show — but by the end, more than half had risen to their feet and some were even dancing. Oates got to show off his husky lead vocal capabilities on "Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)" and "How Does It Feel To Be Back," but mostly Hall took the spotlight. His own vocals are showing the wear of his 65 years; while the grittiness adds distinguished texture to his croon, he couldn't really hit those powerful high notes.

Daryl Hall and John Oates were nothing if not professional, though I got the distinct feeling, not that they were phoning it in, but that they were riding down a well-worn path and weren't really interested in straying too far from it. They don't change the song selection up much from night to night, and with a hits catalog that adequately fills up a setlist (even without "One on One"), why would they? Because really, who wants to hear a Hall & Oates deep cut? Who'd even know one if they played it? Not the people who filled Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday night, who cheered loudest at the best-known hits, and likely not the people who fill up other venues that Hall and Oates play. Not that there's anything wrong with this; obviously, the dudes know their fans — their sold-out shows drives this point home, as it did this past Saturday night. They're doing something right, at least for now.

Setlist
Maneater
Everything Your Heart Desires
Out of Touch
How Does It Feel to Be Back
Say It Isn’t So
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
Sara Smile
I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)

E:
Rich Girl
You Make My Dreams

Kiss Is on My List
Private Eyes

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