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Although they've been fairly quiet on the charts for the past, oh, 20 years or so, Philadelphia's Daryl Hall and John Oates nonetheless remain one of the most successful pop duos in music history. The two Temple graduates turned their crafty blend of blue-eyed Philly soul, disco, dance, and straightforward pop into a string of top-ten singles and albums in the 1980s. Last May, the duo returned to Los Angeles' legendary Troubadour club—scene of their first-ever LA concert in 1973 (opening for the late Harry Chapin)—for a $200-a-ticket two-night stand. Now, thanks to the good people at Shout! Factory, you too can enjoy this appearance—and for far less than $200 to boot.
First and foremost, this disc is long. You definitely get your money's worth here, with the performance running a shade over two hours. As usual, the duo has a talented backing band behind them: long-time collaborators Tom "T-Bone" Wolk (guitar) and Charlie DeChant (sax) are still playing with the duo, and the other touring band members are pretty darned good as well. The 19-song set list, which touches on virtually every phase of the duo's career, is as follows:
• "Everything Your Heart Desires"
There are a lot of things to like about this disc. The song selection is eclectic, including most of the duo's hits while still pulling out rarer chestnuts like "Abandoned Luncheonette," "Cab Driver," and their cover of "Getaway Car." Shout! Factory provides its usual outstanding technical package, combining the relatively well-mixed Dolby surround track (it could have used the rear channels a bit more, but that's really nitpicking) with a clean and crisp anamorphic widescreen transfer. The camera work and editing on the program is commendable as well—the angles jump around enough to keep things visually interesting, but not so much that it becomes seizure-inducing.
Finally, and most importantly, of course, there's the duo themselves. Thirty-five-odd years on, Hall and Oates still put on a great show. Sure, Daryl Hall can't quite hit all those high notes anymore—but he hits a lot of them, and his voice—always one of the greatest white soul voices in music—is still no worse than a 9 on a scale of 1-10. However, if you've ever heard some of his solo work, you know that the vastly underrated John Oates brings something intangible to the collaboration that pushes H&O into the "great" category. What is it? I honestly have no idea. He's not a flashy guitarist; he's content to let Hall take the vast majority of the lead vocals on the pair's songs (the most significant exception being his understated but perfect lead on their early hit "She's Gone"); he doesn't do a lot of songwriting. But Hall, for all his enormous individual talent, just plain sounds better when he's playing with Oates. Of course if you're reading this review, you're probably already a fan of Hall & Oates, which means you already know this and I'm preaching to the choir…
The disc is a little thin on extras—two relatively short interviews with Hall and Oates are the extent of the offerings—but the heft of the main feature more than makes up for that small shortcoming. The only real complaint I have about the disc is something that's completely out of Shout! Factory's control: this performance is largely acoustic. To me, Hall & Oates without the electric guitar is like popcorn without butter. Yeah, sure, it's a good snack—but it's not the best snack it could be. I was hoping this would be the career-spanning, career-defining, only-live-disc-you'll-ever-need performance of Hall & Oates' career. It's not. It's just a great disc that has some really interesting laid-back takes on a number of the duo's songs. There's nothing wrong with that…but I just wanted a little more.
That, however, shouldn't obscure the overall quality of this disc, which
would be a great introduction to the duo for any of the approximately five
people in the universe who haven't heard of them. If you're already a fan,
though, you certainly won't leave this virtual Troubadour disappointed.
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