Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Pair of Dynamic Duos: Hall & Oates, Tears For Fears Prove Twice as Nice in Rosemont -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Hall & Oates
Tears for Fears
w/ opening act Allen Stone
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
@@@@1/2 (for each band)

For reasons I can't strenuously defend, I was much more parochial about my musical tastes in the 1980s than I am now.

Not that my first love isn't still hard rock with plenty of guitar crunch, but whereas in my teens I was going to concerts by Ozzy, the Scorpions, Ratt, Van Halen, The Kinks, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M. and U2, it wasn't until my 30s that I caught Prince, Madonna, Depeche Mode and the Cure, and only recently--well into my 40s--the likes of New Order, Duran Duran, Johnny Marr (of the Smiths) and, coming up for the first time, Echo & the Bunnymen.

In large part, this is probably due to no longer caring as much about peer pressure or imagined perception, which I think helped prompt my wholehearted embrace of the Broadway musical idiom around the turn of the 21st century.

And once I loved musical theater songcraft, it seemed silly to abstain from poppier (and/or New Wavier) popular artists of appealing quality, especially with the dissipation of truly great hard rock acts--or at least the relative lack of new ones catching my attention.

Allen Stone
So though I've never owned any of their albums or even ever sought out much of their music, for the past few years Hall & Oates have been on a shortlist of artists I'd never seen live but wanted to. (In the past few years, Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire, Bryan Ferry, Judas Priest and Alice Cooper are a few I've knocked off the list.)

There seemed to be opportunities in the past couple years, especially last year at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park, but I'm not a big fan of the venue or effort needed to get there, and subsequently heard from my concert pal Paolo--an avowed H&O fan who did see them last year--that the performance was nothing special.

But I took note earlier this year when Hall & Oates--officially Daryl Hall and John Oates--announced a tour that would bring them to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, along with co-headliner Tears for Fears.

Back in the 1980s when the British band--centered around Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, the only originals that remain--became quite popular, I liked the ubiquitous "Shout," "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," "Head Over Heels" and especially "Sowing the Seeds of Love," but still would say I somewhat resisted Tears for Fears and haven't given them too much thought over the years.

And the truth is, they've recorded and toured rather infrequently since the early '90s. Monday was their first Chicago show in at least a dozen years.

But in Spotifamiliarizing myself based on recent setlists, I found they had a depth of quality akin to some of the other British acts I've looked more into of late (such as New Order and Duran Duran).

So I was actually looking forward to seeing Tears for Fears more than Hall & Oates.

And after a nice but quite brief (4 songs) set by a solo singer/guitarist named Allen Stone--I liked his version of "I Say A Little Prayer for You"--Orzabal, Smith and their touring band opened in fine form with "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."

You can see their full setlist on, but along with the hits from 1985's mega-platinum Songs From the Big Chair and the delightful "Sowing the Seeds of Love," I really enjoyed "Change," "Mad World" and "Pale Shelter," from their debut, The Hurting, and "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending," the title song from their last album in 2004.

Trading off lead vocals, guitarist Orzabal and bassist Smith--augmented by a demonstrably good lead
guitarist, among others--still sounded quite good well into their mid-50s.

Plus, a month removed from seeing Radiohead, for the 8th time, without ever having heard them play "Creep," of course that would be the one cover Tears for Fears would deliver, quite delectably. 

It would be great if this three month tour with Hall & Oates prompts Tears for Fears to do more recording, or at least a headlining tour of their own. (They should be able to fill the Chicago Theatre or similar venues.)

Reminding me why they were hugely popular--at least for a spell--in their heyday, and more musically formidable than I knew, they probably deserve a bit more renown, and fond recollection, than they seem to enjoy.

That said, the Allstate crowd was warmly receptive--it's hard to know how many came largely for Tears for Fears, but most seemed to be seated by the time they started just past 7:15pm--and even "Shout"ed them back onstage for an appropriate encore.

Based not only on my own level of affinity but somewhat lukewarm reviews of Hall & Oates from earlier tour stops, which suggested they overly modified their hits--jazz stylings, elongated versions--I was prepared for H&O to delight me considerably less than TFF.

Though I found Hall not only to still have an impressive head of hair at the age of 70, but a voice stronger than some clips in recent years led me to believe--and the opening quartet of "Adult Education," "Maneater," "Out of Touch" and "Say It Isn't So" was more straightforwardly satisfying than self-indulgently re-imagined--early on I was perceiving it as a @@@@ performance.

But--and you can see the setlist here--up next came a truly resplendent version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," which Daryl & John had originally covered in 1980.

"One on One" made me think it would have been a great song for a true soul legend--such as the late Luther Vandross--to have covered with a bit more grit, but I reveled in Hall & Oates then reaching back to 1973 for "She's Gone."

With Hall--who began the show playing guitar alongside Oates--moving to a grand piano, renditions of "Sara Smile," "Wait for Me" and the less-familiar "Is It a Star" were quite nicely done.

The singer spent the rest of the show at a center-stage keyboard, first on an extended--but not annoyingly re-interpretive--"I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" followed by a buoyant "You Make My Dreams."

I loved hearing "Rich Girl" to open the encores, and though the closing "Kiss On My List" and "Private Eyes" exemplify the Hall & Oates I never really embraced, they reiterated the duo's impressive hit-making mastery--and I can't deny dancing along quite happily (and badly).

Pinpointing a grade on my @@@@@ rating scale is never an exact science, but I wound up liking Hall & Oates' performance about as much as Tears for Fears'--and every bit as much as I would have hoped, probably even more. 

So forgetting how either band compares to those I simply like more, but rather as a measurement of my enjoyment on this particular evening--in which none of the nearly 200 minutes worth of music played was less than pleasurable--I was happily surprised to find @@@@1/2 well-merited.


(Unlike other co-headlining concerts I've seen--Billy Joel and Elton John, Chicago and Earth Wind & Fire, Peter Gabriel and Sting, Paul Simon and Sting, etc.--Hall & Oates and Tears for Fears never played together, which I thought could have been nice, perhaps in covering songs by other famed duos such as the Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel.)

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