Todd solo: LysistrataTodd comes out to a mostly empty theater, wearing a shiny jacket, and introduces “Lysistrata” with a comment about diving right into current events. He is straining on the high notes though, and they prove to be quite out of his reach throughout the song and especially on the climactic last line, which does not auger well. Some nights a singer has the pipes, some nights not so much. This would prove to be the latter. And Todd seems to know it too, eschewing the acoustic guitar after one song and bringing out the band.
Todd w/band: Soul Brother Sweet Past Buffalo Grass Hello It’s Me Love is the Answer Rock Love
Hall & Oates: Maneater Say It Isn’t So It’s a Laugh I’ll Be Around Me and Mrs. Jones She’s Gone Camellia One On One Sara Smile I Can’t Go For That Ooh Child e: You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
Hall & Oates w/Todd: Wait for Me Can We Still Be Friends Rich Girl I Saw the Light > Kiss On My List e: Love Train
He delivers three songs in a row from his latest album, Liars, and it is a pleasure to see him touring on the back of relatively new material. “Soul Brother” is a funky treat that features Charlie DuChant’s flute solo, although again it is marred by Todd’s limited range. He soldiers ably on, adjusting his attack by shifting octaves to hit notes, and he does as best he can given the situation.
“Sweet” is in a better register for him, and comes off quite nicely. Indeed all three of the Liars tracks wear quite well with the Hall and Oates band, which played them in a less techno, more R’n’B fashion than on either album or Liars tour. The approach wholly suits these particular songs, which are ideal vehicles for the road tested smooth funk groove of this combo. “Past” is lovely, although again the thinness of Todd’s voice provides a tease of what the song might sound like on another night.
By now the theater is beginning to fill, and “Buffalo Grass” is warmly greeted by the crowd, especially the folks down in the good seats (I suppose people just like the oldies…) Todd plays some nice guitar, his trademark tone piercing the night on the back of his trademark sloppy styling. I thought this was a highlight. Then he talks about finally embracing “Hello Its Me,” calling it something of a cash cow, and observes that the Gap would be using it in a commercial, so after the show he would be going home to wait for his check. The ensuing version is earnest enough to be a crowd pleaser, and indeed most of the songs that received the biggest ovations of the evening dated from the first half of the 70s.
“Love is the Answer” is up next; by now the house is almost full, and he has won over the crowd. Todd’s set—- clearly designed to fit in with the retro Philly soul of the Hall and Oates set—- closes with the Utopian dance track “Rock Love,” on which Todd and band score nicely, with the guitarist (I’d tell you his name if I could find it anywhere on the Internet) playing a solo so reminiscent of Todd’s style that if you didn’t know better, you could have closed your eyes and imagined that it was being played by—- well, Lyle Workman.
After a very brief set break, the band returns, this time fronted by Hall and Oates. They are, quite simply, outstanding. Hit after hit, all great songs well played, brilliantly sung.
They hit with “Maneater”—- like a lot of their 80s synthpop classics, way better live than on the dated, somewhat cheesily produced original track. Then “Say It Isn’t So.” Darryl Hall gives a plug for Instant Live, then asks the crowd to call out requests. In response someone called for “It’s a Laugh,” although I suspect this is already in their repertoire; they deliver a fine rendition. Then they plunge into the classic soul vibe of their recent half-covers release, for the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around.” “Me and Mrs. Jones” may have been the highlight of the show, with Hall singing the hell out of it, pure blue-eyed Philly soul. It isn’t on the album, but it should have been.
“She’s Gone,” which Hall notes was out at about the same time as “Me and Mrs. Jones,” is, I think, every bit as much a soul classic, and the suspenseful crescendo at the song’s end (“ She’s Go-oo-oo-oo-oo-one oh-oh-oh-why…”) is chilling. Next they take another request, John Oates’s “Camellia” off of Silver. Hall and Oates perform this one acoustic and without the band, presumably because the band doesn’t know the chords. This one does not appear to be part of their working repertoire. It is another highlight.
Then back into the archive of hits for “One On One,” “Sara Smile,” and “I Can’t Go for That,” before a set-closing cover of the Five Stairsteps classic “Ooh Child” (also off their latest album.) Hall and Oates actually met at a Five Stairsteps concert, making this a fitting close. They encore with “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” which for my money they now do better than the Righteous Brothers.
Another brief set break, and the band returns, now augmented by Todd on stage right with guitar. He takes the first verse of “Wait for Me,” his voice still not 100%, but now noticeably stronger. Hall takes the next verse, and they switch off; the almost orchestral vocal arrangement on the chorus, featuring Hall, Oates, Todd, and band, is exquisite. Todd plays the outro guitar solo.
Todd moves to keyboards and Hall to guitar (they switch positions) for “Can We Still Be Friends?” The “la-la” bridge is powerfully sung by the whole cast, and it is one of the best versions of this song I have ever heard. Todd and Daryl trade verses, and Hall has a profound ability to make a song like this, which might seem sappy and poppy in some hands (like say Todd’s), seem earnest and heartfelt. He should probably cop the song from Todd. Hall does his soul vamp-out thing over the “la-las;” it would not have surprised me if he had pleaded, “Sara PLEASE!”
“Rich Girl” and Todd’s “I Saw the Light” follow the pattern of Darryl and Todd trading vocals, and the similarities of their singing styles is hard to miss. On at least one occasion I cannot tell where Todd stops singing and Darryl begins. “I Saw the Light” features a drawn-out ending which segues into “Kiss On My List.” This and “Wait for Me” are the two Hall and Oates songs on which Todd most shines. He throws himself completely into this one, joining the guitarists center stage on air guitar during the instrumental break, and doing his patented “Todding out” vocal breakdown over the “Because your kiss” backing vocals on the outro.
The band leaves and returns, and the night ends with perhaps the quintessential Philly soul tune, the Ojays’ “Love Train.” By my count, 16 of 26 numbers from the show date from the 70s (I’m counting “Hello It’s Me” as a 70s song despite its earlier appearance via the Nazz.) This boomer crowd could not have been happier. Good songs well played will, it turns out, endure.