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Concert Reviews:
Hall & Oates and Train show rides uneven track at Little Caesars
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- The pairing of Daryl Hall & John Oates and Train on Sunday night, May 20, at Little Caesars Arena had the potential to be a one-plus-one equals more than two proposition.

It didn’t quite add up that way, unfortunately.

What was billed pre-tour to be a genuine co-headline outing, with each act playing an hour followed by a half-hour combined finale, turned into a more standard affair with Hall & Oates as the clear headliner and Train frontman Pat Monahan joining the duo for three songs. There was plenty to like about the show, but as Hall & Oates delivered the final vamp of “You Make My Dreams” it felt like it should have been even better.

The Philadelphia-formed duo was responsible for that, too. Like many veteran groups with a formidable legacy, Hall & Oates have recently demonstrated a tendency to fight its hits; Rather than merely tweaking they try to manhandle them into something different -- and that they’re not necessarily suited to be. Particularly during its run of 80s smashes Hall & Oates developed a distinctive, dynamic and unique approach that made sonics an integral part of the songcraft; They’re songs that are simply made to be played that way and no other, attempts to alter them, in some cases significantly, tend to do more harm than good. It may keep things fresh for the musicians, but it also leaves some fans scratching their heads -- and in some cases, as was evident on Sunday, tuning out.

An early show case in point was “Say It Isn’t So.” On Sunday the leather-jacketed duo tried to turn the chart-topping single-- an edgy-sounding pop track that made inventive use of space and tension in its original 1983 form -- into an organic soul song, but the arrangement was tentative and meandering. “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” meanwhile, suffered for its lengthy, extended jam that visibly drove fans out of the arena as it went on despite the sharp chops displayed by guitarist Shane Theriot and longtime saxophonist Charlie DeChant..

Hall & Oates hit as well as missed, however. Their renditions of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “She’s Gone” were particularly powerful, and the inclusion of the Oates-sung 1974 album track “Is It A Star” was welcome, as were Oates’ guitar solos throughout the 15-song show. And the slam-bam closing of “Kiss On My List” into “Private Eyes” and then an encore of “Rich Girl” into “You Make My Dreams” captured the kind of energy and excitement Hall & Oates could, and should, have delivered throughout its entire 90-minute set.

The set with Monahan was similarly mixed. Renditions of the new collaborative single “Philly Forget Me Not” and Train’s “Calling All Angels,” which Monahan subtly dedicated to victims of recent school shootings, were spot-on, but their delivery of Hall & Oates’ “Wait For Me” was plodding.

Train’s set, meanwhile, was a tough act to follow for its sheer energy -- an upbeat, high-octane hour (following Kandace Springs’ vocal-showcasing set-up) whose energy never flagged, even during quieter moments such as “When I Look To The Sky” and “Marry Me.” Monahan, whose voice sounded road-worn at the start but quickly improved. guided the six-piece group through a parade of hit singles, starting with “50 Ways To Say Goodbye” and rolling through “Get To Me,” “Meet Virginia,” “Save Me San Francisco,” “Hey Soul Sister,” “Play That Song,” “Drive By” and the anthemic “Drops of Jupiter.”

Train also dropped in covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” (with a tease of “Whole Lotta Love”) and the late Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” with the gregarious Monahan leading a singalong “loud enough for Tom to hear ya.”

And if there was any doubt Monahan was willing to do most anything to entertain, he threw T-shirts into the crowd during “Meet Virginia” and even had the entire band autograph his Train denim jacket before tossed it, too, to a fan.



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