Most music acts don’t make it. Of the ones that do reach even a modicum of success, more often than not their blip on the cultural radar goes out faster than their screen time on Beverly Hills, 90210, and that’s not just talking about the one-hit wonders, who are always at a constant “Go Ninja, go ninja, go!” away from being a VH1 show (it doesn’t matter, starring in or being referenced to) punchline. Even the acts that defined their decade find themselves later imprisoned by it, scoffed at and shunned by the fickle whims of the years that follow. Where once they headlined arenas, now they work the nostalgia circuit. I wrenchingly remember the feeling in my stomach as I watched my favorite band from high school, who had the longest charting single in the history of Billboard and whom I’d seen numerous times in the 90s headlining their own festival, now playing a free show at the Hollywood Park Casino to a crowd of ambivalent onlookers. I may or may not have beaten someone who asked “Who the hell are these guys?” with a harmonica, but I digress. If anything, musical acts serve as a snapshot of the culture and landscape at the time. Their songs and videos little three minute packages to remind us who and where we were back then. At the very least, to pose the question upon reflection, What. The Hell. Were we thinking? Those tiny few bands/groups/singers; the one percent of the one percent, that transcend all the pop culture pitfalls and continue to have relevant, mainstream success past the initial decade of their fame can probably all fit onto one compilation CD. If that initial decade of fame was the 70s, then that list gets even smaller. Now you’re talking about musicians like Aerosmith, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and the most successful duo of all time, Hall and Oates.
Darryl Hall and John Oates (sans mustache, which I can only assume was out saving the world, or was headlining its own tour) brought their patented mix of “rock and soul” to a sold-out crowd at the Hard Rock Live Arena in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Ironically, for a duo whose biggest success came and whose songs are synonymous with the most lampooned era in pop culture history, the three of them (can’t forget the mustache) came out unscathed, rather, they became the band from which ironic hipsterdom sprang forth. Any Hall and Oates references today are as loving and reverential as they would’ve been in the 80s. They’re the star of one of the best scenes in (500) Days Of Summer, TJ Miller’s character Steiner gets the girl because of this, and the biggest band in Atlanta, Yacht Rock Revue wouldn’t exist without them.
In keeping with the character of South Florida, the concert started on the dot at 8 pm, and this was not a Hall and Oates concert for only the true believers, laden with concert-only jam sessions and rare B-side performances. This was the Cliff’s Notes Hall and Oates, both in content – they only played their top 10 hits, and in length – the entire concert, from start to the last encore, clocked in at just under an hour and a half. Empirically yes, that’s a short concert. That’s only the first two songs at a Radiohead show. But to only play your top 10 hits and be able to play for an entire hour and a half is a pretty damn big accomplishment for a duo. They teed the crowd up right out of the gate with “Maneater,” “Method of Modern Love,” and “Out of Touch.” At first I had some umbrage with this, coming out swinging at the start. Nobody remembers the home run in the first, but everyone talks about the walk-off to win the game, but as the concert kept going and one melodic hit came after another, this format actually yielded fantastic song combinations: “Rich Girl” playing into “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “I Can’t Go For That,” into “Sara Smile,” “Kiss Is On My List,” into “Private Eyes,” each song as smooth and catchy as the day they recorded it. Perhaps the most ironic thing about Hall and Oates is that there is nothing ironic about them. They are as straightforward as they come, “Hi, we’re Hall and Oates, here are our songs, thank you and goodnight!” They don’t appear to be in on the joke because there’s no joke being told. Why? Because Hall and Oates’ songs, even though a product of the disco 70s and whatever the hell the 80s were, are straight up, no holds barred awesome. They tour when they want, and when they do, they sell out venues, After a career spanning four decades, they’re still laughing all the way to the bank.