This May, Daryl Hall & John Oates will kick off a lengthy summer tour that will hit 32 cities around North America. Three months prior, the legendary duo played a sold-out show at New York’s Madison Square Garden Friday night (Feb. 28), previewing their summer set and proving that even nearly 50 years into their career, Hall & Oates still puts on a can’t-miss show.
Though Hall & Oates will be playing mostly amphitheaters throughout their tour, Madison Square Garden was a fitting location for their tour introduction (the pair’s first show was technically in Hershey, Penn., but even Hall, born in nearby Pottstown, referred to that as a “warm-up”). It was a night of iconic songs in a special venue — exactly what Hall & Oates fans around the country will get in a few short months.
Check out six highlights from Hall & Oates MSG show, and get tickets to see the magic yourself here.
KT Tunstall and Squeeze, who both serve as support for the summer trek, started off the night just right with familiar songs and positive vibes. Tunstall was a trooper as she experienced some technical difficulties, joking that the “Gods of adversity came to visit me at the most important gig of my life.” She powered through her short-but-sweet set that featured her 2004 hits “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See” and even a cover of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.” In between, Tunstall recalled meeting Hall a few years ago and declared, “People say you shouldn’t meet your heroes… sometimes that’s total bullshit.”
Squeeze played for nearly an hour, paying tribute to their heyday with 14 songs mostly from the late ’70s/early ’80s like “Slap and Tickle” and “Is That Love.” Before their 1979 hit “Cool For Cats,” the British rock group facetiously asked for a standing ovation for their 40+ years of touring. Once they broke into their biggest hit, “Tempted,” Squeeze didn’t need to ask for the crowd to be on their feet.
The falsetto-filled ad-libs
Hall & Oates took the stage just before 9 p.m., opening with a lively rendition of their H2O hit “Maneater.” Hall put little twists on the melody and added falsetto bits throughout, ad-libs he continued throughout the 16-song set. These not only reminded the crowd of his talent (and that he was definitely singing live), but also offered unique updates for famous tunes like “Out of Touch” and “One on One.”
The sax guy
While the nearly 20,000 people in attendance were obviously there for Mr. Hall and Mr. Oates, the set really wouldn’t have been the same without their longtime saxophonist, Charles DeChant. His sax solos reminded fans how crucial the instrument is to Hall & Oates’ music, especially on “Say It Isn’t So,” which sparked the response of a rock god. And despite being in the background for the majority of the show, DeChant looked like a star in a black sequined blazer and silver sparkly shoes (and, of course, his signature long locks).
In between their own megahits, Hall & Oates sprinkled a few classics from Paul Young, The Righteous Brothers and The Dramatics. The duo first played a soulful rendition of Young’s “Every Time You Go Away,” and though fans may have forgotten it was originally a Hall & Oates song (it appeared on their 1980 album Voices), Hall reminded that he wrote it himself — and further emphasized that with impassioned notes on the bridge. Later, Oates took the reins on their cover of The Righteous Brothers’ 1964 classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (another Voices track). And just before leaving the stage before the encore, the pair delivered a smooth version of The Dramatics’ “What You See Is What You Get” (featured on 2004’s Our Kind of Soul), the most R&B-heavy cover of the night.
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With so many hit songs in their catalog, Hall & Oates have been playing a relatively similar set list for years, if not decades. Yet, their enthusiasm for the songs still feels palpable, whether it’s through their intros of the songs or the jam sessions they enjoy together during each number — and on tracks like their 1976 breakout “Sara Smile,” Hall and Oates couldn’t help but lock eyes and, well, smile at one another in celebration of the legacy they’ve built together. That same spirit was carried by their backing band, which in turn fed the crowd’s excitement, making the countless sing-along moments even more memorable.
The power-packed encore
“I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” had everyone out of their seats before the encore, and Hall & Oates’ quick return to the stage kept that energy alive — but it was the songs that really did it. The four-song finale featured the duo’s most rocking hits, “Rich Girl,” “Private Eyes,” “Kiss on My List” and “You Make My Dreams,” which had the entire arena on their feet and absolutely electrified for 20 minutes straight.
Hall & Oates’ 85-minute set featured no pyrotechnics or gyrating from the lead singer, like some of this summer’s highly anticipated tours — from the Rolling Stones to Justin Bieber — may entail. But that’s what makes Hall & Oates’ show so special: There’s no gimmicks or egos. It’s simply about the music that’s made people smile, dance and sing for almost 50 years.