Was it a case of timeless, timely or some kind of time warp?
Twenty years removed from their last hit, Hall & Oates looked and sounded remarkably like their heyday selves Friday night at the sold-out State Theatre in Minneapolis. The only noticeable change was the audience: There were lots of teens and twenty-somethings, along with the expected baby boomers.
Hall & Oates, the Starsky and Hutch of rock 'n' soul, have found a new indie-rock cachet thanks to their songs being prominent in cool movies ("The Wedding Singer," "(500) Days of Summer"), their performing at hip festivals (this year's Bonnaroo) and on popular TV programs ("The Daily Show," "American Idol," "Will and Grace"), and their work being hailed by a parade of indie-rockers (Death Cab for Cutie, the Bird & the Bee, Chromeo), sampled by rappers (Young Jeezy, Ying Yang Twins) and used in video games (two editions of "Grand Theft Auto").
Whatever attracted the fans to the State for H&O's first Twin Cities performance in six years, they were rewarded with a soulful, slick and relatively satisfying show. Some concertgoers might have preferred more hits (especially "Private Eyes") and fewer Christmas songs (there were three, as a bonus second encore), but this was pretty much one of those pro-forma, crowd-pleasing casino shows that was short on frills, length and pizazz.
Most important, Daryl Hall (the blond feather do) and John Oates (the cascade of black curls but no moustache) were in good voice, their band was tight, and the hits (from 1974 to '85) sounded timeless and terrific. The Philadelphia duo's mastery of ear worms, harmonies and blue-eyed soulfulness was obvious all night long.
Looking like a bad-boy biker with clean hair, Hall, 64, sounded like a born-again soul man, testifying with deep-seated spirit like he'd gone to the same church as Philadelphia soul legends Teddy Pendergrass and Billy Paul. Harmonizer Oates, 61, added personality and a sense of place, by pointing out that the Twin Cities was one of the first radio markets to embrace H&O's music on 1973's "Abandoned Luncheonette" album.
That album's breakthrough hit, "She's Gone," was the highlight of the 95-minute set. Masterfully arranged, it was filled with such tension, call and response vocals, and overwhelming emotion that it felt like a religious experience to the audience, which gave H&O a long standing ovation.
For the first encore, the duo and its fine six-man band took the Top 40 out of "Rich Girl," lowered the key on "Kiss on My List" and then slayed the crowd with "You Make My Dreams Come True," the simple vamp that has become an anthem for indie rockers and their baby-boomer parents.
Whether the evening felt like timeless, timely or like some kind of time warp, it was a darn good time.