Hanson Boys Have It All
By Jane Ganahl San Francisco Examiner
The Warfield, San Francisco, 8/5/2000
IT’S NOT Hanson’s fault that the teenage Oklahoma brothers’ 1997 debut, the 8 million selling “Middle of Nowhere”, made such an explosive impact on the music world that it spawned dozens of (bad) imitators. Neither is it their fault that they’re so dang cute.
If both those factors weigh against them in terms of gaining street cred, it’s to their credit that they don’t care. They’re here to make music, not take the money and run, unlike the host of boy bands their popularity helped launch – like the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and “N” Sync, whose motto seems to be dress fancy, sing other people’s songs and don’t sweat the issue of artistic integrity.
But Isaac, 19, Taylor, 17 and Zachary, 14, are after something more lasting. “This Time Around,” the new follow up album to “Middle of Nowhere” is a wonderful step forward for the band – showcasing their growth as both musicians and young men – and proving that the Hanson operation is still a homespun affair.
All the songs are written by the brothers (almost unheard of these days), their parents still play strongly into their management and they even dress like …. Well, kids (albeit hip ones) from Tulsa – no Prada in sight.
Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. The new album has been embraced by critics- even as observers wonder if Hanson’s departure from the formula of their early hit “MMMBop,” is the reason it’s not selling as hotly. And after their live shows, like the one at the Warfield Friday night, kick the stuffing out of their youthful competitors in terms of organic, from-the-gut, youthfully exuberant rock.
They could sell out a much larger venue, but choose to stick to middle-sized ones like the Warfield, ostensibly to maintain contact with their fans, who jammed the front of the stage, predictably screaming like banshees. They almost drowned out the music at times, which was a shame, since Isaac, Taylor and Zac know how to bring it, live.
For nearly two hours, Hanson rocked like they meant it – never letting the energy drag and building up a sweat. With the exception of three songs in the middle of the show that showcased the three brothers and one guitar to accompany them, the band featured Zac on drums, Isaac on guitar and Taylor on keyboards. Backing them were three other musicians.
The telegenic Taylor, whose cheekbones defy description, did the lion’s share of the singing, with vocals that range between Michael Jackson’s raspy tenor and Jonny Lang’s more youthful, bluesy howl. Isaac has a more mature voice, with a smoother delivery; together and with Zac on the third part, their harmonies are purer and more honest than any I’ve heard lately.
They are also natural showmen, relishing the spotlight but not hogging it, and generous in their interactions with their audience. There was way too much “put your hands together” gesturing but they were giving the teen audience what they came for.
What the teen audience might not have expected was this much ROCK.
“You Never Know” roared out of the gate, with its fierce Latinized beat.
“Where’s the Love,” a bubble gum classic from the first album, was played with fire. And “Runaway Run,” one of the best songs on the new album, has a Springsteen-inspired verse and chorus that soars.
So confident were the three that they tackled a couple of unrecorded songs, including the beautiful “I Don’t Know,” rather than just pound out the hits. “Can’t Stop,” was a barn burner. And inspired by Janis Joplin’s city, the band did a pretty good “Piece of My Heart,” with more zeal than was managed by Faith Hill the other night.
But when the three sat down with just mikes and a guitar, to croon “Wish That I was There,” in perfect, heartfelt, hootenanny harmony, it was clear that they weren’t just singing for the girls – they were singing for the ages. Just the way they planned.
Posted by Hanfan 2000