Daryl Hall & John Oates…and Some Damn Good Sax

The biggest recording duo in pop music history made a stop in Chicagoland on Friday, July 22, and they certainly put on a show.

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Daryl Hall (left) & John Oates, circa 1983

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Daryl Hall & John Oates and their backing band played here at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park, IL, to an audience of over 20,000 approving fans.

Prior to that, opening act Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings performed – for at least an hour – as fans shuffled about the sprawling venue, finding their seats and laboring through the 95-degree late-July Chicago heat.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings opened for Hall & Oates at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater on July 22, 2016.
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings opened for Hall & Oates at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater on July 22, 2016.

Jones and her band did well enough, with the lead singer belting out R&B, soul and funk tunes and the band playing as expertly as any live band I’ve seen.  However, their show went much longer than I would’ve expected of an opening act.  With each different song they performed, I kept wondering (and I’m sure I wasn’t alone) when their show would end and the main act’s begin.

That eventually happened, just as day turned to night and the generationally diverse crowd of Hall & Oates fans settled into their seats, eagerly anticipating the Philadelphia-based duo and their famed brand of rock and soul music.

I entered into a bet with the friend who accompanied me regarding which of the duo’s dozens of hits they would open (and later end) the show with.  Our guesses changed multiple times in the minutes leading up to the band’s stage entrance, but neither of us guessed it would be the biggest hit of their career, “Maneater,” that they’d play first.  Typically, songs with that distinction are saved for the encore or closing performances.

But “Maneater” it was.  And Daryl’s lead vocals were in top form.  The band performed the song (and all the others, for that matter) in the same key as it had been recorded 34 years earlier, something we don’t always expect from artists of a certain age whose voices have understandably gone through changes in that span of time.

After “Maneater” came another of their six #1 Hot 100 singles, “Out of Touch.”  That classic had the crowd geeked as many sang along in unison with Daryl’s famous tenor.  I found it interesting that the group opened with their last two #1 singles – and two of their most famous – considering their vast catalog of hits.  I expected that these two – “Maneater” and “Out of Touch” – would be much later in the show, something to build up the crowd’s anticipation as the show went on.

The next tune fell more in line with my expectations of an early song choice, the third single from their Private Eyes album: “Did It In A Minute.”  The punk-rockish tune was a decent-sized hit in its day, reaching the Billboard top ten in 1982, but today is not considered one of their time-tested classics.  Even Daryl introduced the song by stating that they hadn’t played it “in a while.”  Still, it made this night’s setlist and had us believing that H&O would be digging pretty deep into that famous song catalog of theirs throughout the night (but more on that a little later).

Next came a song that should’ve been a #1 hit for the duo. “Say It Isn’t So” spent four weeks at #2 stuck behind another “say” song, “Say, Say, Say” by some duet with the names McCartney and Jackson.

“Say It Isn’t So” was followed by “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” their 1980 remake of the Righteous Brothers’ 1964 #1 single.  Daryl introduced it as one of the “greatest rock and roll songs ever written.”  He gave a shoutout to the song’s writers, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, in the process.  This song is also unique in that it’s one of a few of H&O’s hits that feature opening lead vocals by lead guitarist John Oates, whose voice was also in fine form for his 68 years (Hall is 69, by the way).

At that point, Hall announced that he would be taking us through a time machine of oldies, an odd statement considering that ALL of their songs are considered oldies at this point.  Nonetheless, he began the chronological journey of songs with the tune “Las Vegas Turn Around,” from their second album, 1973’s Abandoned Luncheonette.  It was another song in which Oates sang lead.

Next came the song that Hall said “took them out of Philadelphia” – “She’s Gone” – also from Abandoned Luncheonette.  Indeed, that song was their first to reach the national record charts, first hitting #60 in 1974, then reaching a lucky #7 two years later after its rerelease when the duo had become more popular.

John Oates and saxophonist Charlie DeChant jam together on stage
John Oates and saxophonist Charlie DeChant jam together on stage

The thing that was most notable about their performance of “She’s Gone” was the sax solo performed by the band’s long-time saxophonist, Charlie DeChant.  It wasn’t until his solo that I realized just how vital he had been to many of the band’s biggest hits. DeChant joined the band in 1976 – after “She’s Gone” had already been recorded, but in time for almost all of their subsequent hits – and he has been with them ever since.

After “She’s Gone” came their first top-ten single, “Sara Smile,” the song the duo famously wrote about Hall’s long-time girlfriend, Sara Allen.  That was followed by the lesser hit, “Do What You Want, Be What You Are,” from the band’s 5th album, Bigger Than The Both Of Us.

Hall & Oates self-titled album from 1975 contained their first top-ten hit, "Sara Smile."
Hall & Oates self-titled album from 1975 featured this androgynous album cover and their first top-ten hit, “Sara Smile.”

Hall, who likes to ad-lib while straying from the original vocal arrangements of many of his songs, improvised with “Do What You Want” and used it as an opportunity to segue into their best-known R&B hit, the #1 smash (on both the soul and pop charts), “I Can’t Go For That.”  This leap from 1976 to that 1981/82 tune also broke from his earlier premise to take us through a chronological time warp journey, but it was a welcome moment, particularly the long sax solo that DeChant performed.

DeChant’s sax took us to an “intermission,” after ten songs and about 75 minutes worth of no-frills performance. Unlike many of today’s artists, Hall & Oates didn’t bring a lot of visual acrobatics.  There were no big screen computer-aided graphics (aside from a few animations of the band members as they played their instruments), no flashy costumes (John Oates did flash open his black vest to reveal a t-shirt with the word “Reverb” written across it, a likely nod to the musical effect applied to his lead guitar).  This was a show that, at times, came across as a good old fashion jam session, and it was clearly all about the music…music that had been written and recorded during a time when the music mattered most.

To me, the intermission was a good indicator that the second half might be filled with an equal number of songs and length of performance, something that would be welcomed by the diehard fans in attendance.

Alas, when the band returned only minutes later, they gave us their very first #1 Billboard hit, “Rich Girl.”  This put the crowd on its feet as we all sang along to its memorable chorus.  The choir of singers reminded me of my childhood when I first heard the tune and used to marvel at the fact that a song with the word “bitch” in its lyrics could be played on the radio (and be such a big hit in the process).

Of course, Elton John’s big hit from three years earlier – “The Bitch Is Back” – was the first top ten hit to include the word in its lyrics, but it didn’t hit #1 like the H&O tune did.

But I digress.

Hall & Oates then performed the quirky 1981 pop tune “You Make My Dreams,” the fourth single off of their Voices album (and the second of those to reach the top ten).

They then surprisingly left the stage again for a break, prompting fans behind us to begin repeatedly chanting “Everytime You Go Away! Everytime You Go Away!…” – an obvious nod to the song Daryl Hall wrote and British singer Paul Young took to #1 in 1985.  It might have also been a reference to the fact that the duo had already “gone away” twice during this performance, only to return minutes later to continue the show.

The brevity of the second break was an ominous sign that the earlier intermission was perhaps not an intermission at all, but the precursor to an encore, a signal that the show’s end was near.

And it was.

When Hall & Oates returned after the second break for a final encore, they performed the remaining two #1 singles that had yet to be played: “Kiss On My List” and “Private Eyes,” both from 1981.  The latter of those two is my favorite Hall & Oates song, and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it as well.  This was evident by the double hand-claps they all did on queue after “they’re watching you” during the song’s famous chorus.

The Private Eyes album cover, 1981.
The Private Eyes album cover, 1981.

Then, after “Private Eyes,” that was it.  Fourteen songs and nearly two hours after it started, the show was over.  Daryl Hall bid us all a farewell and sent us off into the hot summer night.

If you’re wondering (like we were) where songs like “One On One,” “Method of Modern Love,” “Wait For Me,” “Adult Education,” “Family Man,” “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” and others were, they simply didn’t make the cut on this particular night.

Their omission was equally a statement of the vastness of their hit catalog as it was a testament of what you get when you can take advantage of a Groupon deal and only spend $26-$30 per ticket to see one of the greatest musical acts of all time.

Hall and Oates, circa 2008
Hall and Oates, circa 2008

The fact that the dynamic duo had performed 14 of their biggest hits – in their entirety for about 90 minutes and to the crowd’s approval – was very satisfying to this writer.

The fact that it ended with my favorite H&O song, “Private Eyes,” was icing on the proverbial cake.

Oh, and that sax? It was damn good, too!

DJRob

Saxophonist Charlie DeChant, now and then.
Saxophonist Charlie DeChant, now and then.

Ps.  To see where Hall & Oates rank on my list of the 30 greatest blue-eyed soul singers, click here.

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