Hanson leaves behind its pubescent sound.
Review: The boys are all right. Surprisingly, they’re better than all right – they’re fantastic.
August 10 2000
The Orange County Register
It should be easy to hate Hanson. So young, so talented, so idolized. And – the worst sin of all – the stray match that sparked the boy-band wildfire now scorching the nation.
Curse them. Curse them because five minutes into their Wiltern Theatre show Tuesday, I forgot all that. At the risk of getting kicked out of the rock critics union and enduring the mockery of friends who dismiss Hanson as just another bit o’ teen fluff, I have a confession: I loved, loved, loved this concert.
In fact, I almost feel bad for Hanson, which shoulders the horrible burden of stereotype. If the Hanson brothers – Isaac, Taylor and Zac- had hit in big in their 20s instead of their teens, if their first hit was the bluesy “This Time Around” instead of “MMMBop”, if they didn’t have those peaches-and-cream good looks, maybe they’d be opening for Black Crowes instead of playing to sold-out crowds of preteens.
Not that the Hanson’s didn’t play their hearts out for the audience, in which girls outnumbered male chaperones 200-1. Not that they didn’t appreciate the adoration, the squealing, the sign hung from the balcony inviting them to call “Sam & Rach”, complete with phone number.
No, they did. But they deserve so much more. An adult crossover audience for one.
These guys rock. From the gospel infused “Dying To Be Alive, to the R&B tinged “You Never Know”, they tore through an impressive selection of blues-rock not often heard on radio these days.
They covered “Piece Of My Heart”, and Taylor’s growl and falsetto would have earned Janis Joplin’s respect. When John Popper joined them onstage for two songs of virtuoso harmonica playing, including then brilliant, “If Only”, they more than held their own. Popper was having a grand time; he looked ready to leave Blues Traveler and become a brother.
The audience aside, this wasn’t a boy-band show.
These guys came off like a lively Texas bar band, miles away from their “MMMBop” days (which by the way, was reworked as a rock song beyond point of recognition).
Can they make the leap to an adult career? They certainly have the chops.
All three sing, Taylor’s keyboard playing is impressive, and guitarist Isaac is improving. They get along well – although Zac seems to be going through a bit of a teen rebellion, goofing off throughout the show.
The concert pacing itself was impressive. They played a short set of acoustic songs in the middle of the show, ditching, for a short time, a trio of backup musicians. Though most of their tunes are relentlessly upbeat, Zac ( the original review says Isaac), scored with his sad ballad “Lucy”, showing off a range of mood. Also impressive: They didn’t play an encore to their 22-song set, avoiding one of the most ridiculous clichés of modern concerts.
Now comes the tough part. Though the ladies in the crowd would disagree, Hanson has lost its heartthrob status to the Backstreet Boys; its venues are much smaller this time around. Will the guys outlive the pretty boys as well? Can they ride out the rough transition and become a popular adult blues – rock band?
I’m surprised to admit that I really hope so.