I’ve long been an advocate of Daryl Hall and John Oates performing a complete album during their live show. It’s not a new concept. Brian Wilson has performed the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” (1966) album for a while now. And the Doobie Brothers have done the complete “Toulouse Street” (1972) and “The Captain and Me” (1973) albums in concert.
I think it’s cool because the fans get to hear deeper cuts that bands usually don’t perform live. But there is the very real possibility — the Beatles are on the record as saying this — that some album cuts, particularly those albums that were recorded early in the artists’ careers, have never been performed live by the band. There are songs on albums that bands learned just for the album, and would have to relearn them some 40 to 50 years later.
So it’s not necessarily an easy thing for the artists to do, I’m sure. And there’s the consideration — which John Oates has told me more than once in past interviews when I’ve asked him about how the concert setlist is determined — that when fans buy tickets to shows, Hall & Oates feel obligated to perform the hits. And with H&O, there are more than enough hits to fill up a concert.
Still, I’ve always wanted to hear Daryl and John do a full album live, my preferences being “Abandoned Luncheonette” (1973) and “Daryl Hall & John Oates,” also known as the “Silver Album” (1975). Those are my two favorites and the two that I’ve written about most extensively in “The Vinyl Dialogues” series.
I’m not the only one who likes “Abandoned Luncheonette,” both Daryl and John like it a lot, too.
“It’s a special album. It was a perfect storm of creativity for us,” said Oates in an interview for “The Vinyl Dialogues Volume I.” “It was the right producer [Arif Mardin] in the right studio with the right musicians and the right songs, all at the same time. That seldom happens, but you hope it does. Fortunately for us, it happened on our second album.”
Daryl said that Side One of the album is the “magic” side. It includes one Hall-penned tune, “When the Morning Comes”; three Oates-written songs, “Had I Know You Better Then,” “Las Vegas Turnaround” and “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)”; and one co-written song, “She’s Gone.”
“She’s Gone,” which is always played by the duo in their live shows, was only moderately successful when it was first released as a single in 1974. But it climbed to No. 7 on the charts when a remixed version was re-released in 1976, after the two had moved to RCA Records and scored a big hit with “Sara Smile.”
“On Side One, there’s not a note on that body of work that isn’t just right,” said Daryl in an interview for TVD1. He won’t go so far to say that “Abandoned Luncheonette” is his favorite Daryl Hall and John Oates album, but he comes close.
“You can never look into the future, but I was proud of it at the time,” said Daryl. “Would I have known that we’d be talking about it more than 40 years later? No, but I had the feeling that it was going to be around for a while. It was one of my favorite experiences, I’ll say that. I guess I would equate that with a favorite album.”
The Silver Album contained the breakout hit “Sara Smile,” the writing of which Daryl detailed for me in “The Vinyl Dialogues Volume III: Stack of Wax.” Other than that one, none of the other songs on that album have made consistent appearances in the H&O live set, although Oates’ “Camellia” does often show up in his solo shows.
But as much as I’d love to hear those two albums in their entirety live, I may have to change my tune after the H&O show Sunday night, Sept. 1, at the Allentown Fair in Allentown, PA. That’s because if that show is any indication of what Daryl and John experience night after night at their shows, then John was absolutely correct: the fans buy tickets to their shows to hear them perform the hits.
There were several big crowd reactions throughout the show, but none bigger than when H&O performed “She’s Gone” and “Sara Smile” back-to-back in the middle of the set. Those songs have stood the test of time, and Daryl and John perform them like they’re new songs. There is as much soulfulness in “She’s Gone,” and as much emotion from Daryl in “Sara Smile,” as there was when those songs were recorded. And the audience erupted for both of the tunes, as well as for the other hits.
Consider just the encore songs at this show: “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes” — all No. 1 hits — and “You Make My Dreams,” a No. 5 chart single, brought the crowd to its feet and collectively kept it there for the entire encore.
Daryl and John know their audiences. And they give them what they want, which is the hits, occasionally sprinkling in songs like “Is It a Star,” from the “War Babies” (1974) album, which appeared in the Allentown set.
We’re lucky that Daryl and John are still out there performing those hits for us. If they’re in your town — or anywhere near your town — go see them. They’re both still in great voice and their band has been top notch for many years now.
You can still go for that. I know I can.