St. Petersburg got a little slice of Philadelphia’s soul on Wednesday night when it welcomed two music giants from Pennsylvania to the stage of the Mahaffey Theatre. Touring together and with a boatload of hit singles under their belts, Todd Rundgren and Daryl Hall each brought their A-game to a packed house at the ornate music hall and delivered solid performances ranging from obscure songs to the best-known songs in their repertoires.
Opening the long night of music quickly at the announced 7:30 p.m. start time, Rundgren wasted no time getting things started. Dressed in a bright, shiny burgundy suit and wearing his ubiquitous sunglasses, he started the evening by delivering a fresh and energetic read of his 1975 single, “Real Man” and instantly set the mood for the entertaining set. of 65 minutes he’d deliver. Not as vocally versatile as he was in his prime, the veteran singer, songwriter, producer and music ace wasn’t able to hit all the high notes like he used to, but has more that compensated throughout his performance. Backed by the same six-piece band that would do double duty and support the night’s headliner later that night, Rundgren seemed happy to play in the area, something he’s done several times over the past few months. .
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Florida this year,” he joked between songs, but his loyal supporters in the audience were more than happy to see him again.
What Rundgren lacked in vocal range he replaced with a rich soul that added depth to many familiar selections. ‘It wouldn’t have made any difference’, one of the many stars of his 1972 masterpiece Something anything?, has been transformed into a true R&B ballad thanks to the soul-infused treatment given to it. Diving into lesser-known material as well, Rundgren threw some bones at the diehards throughout his part of the show. A version of “Buffalo Grass” from its release in 2000, with a lot of guitar, A long year, satisfied the most devout of Rundgren as a surprise in a set list consisting mostly of more familiar material. Again showing its more soulful side, the tune shared more than a passing similarity to classic-era Stax rhythm and blues and was punctuated by the incredible saxophone work of longtime horn player Charlie DeChant. of the Hall & Oates group.
Rundgren’s real shining moments came towards the end of his performance when he launched an abbreviated version of the soulful medley that first appeared on side two of his 1973 tour de force, A magician, a real star. Faithful renditions of Curtis Mayfield’s “I’m So Proud” and Smokey Robinson’s “Ooh Baby Baby” were capped off by a superb version of Marvin Gaye’s sultry ballad “I Want You” set to a samba beat.
Finally, a hearty version of one of his most dynamic compositions, 1989’s “The Want of a Nail” (originally recorded with R&B legend Bobby Womack sharing vocal duties with Rundgren) rounded out the set. wonderfully and left Todd heads in the seats wanting Suite. Fortunately, those fans would have another chance to hear Todd sing again later in the program.
With a short break between sets, the night’s headliner also wasted no time getting into her part of the concert. Daryl Hall, the tall, blonde half of Hall & Oates, the hit duo that burst onto the music scene in the early ’70s, had released several impressive solo albums throughout his tenure as Joan’s musical partner. Oats. For his current tour, titled “Before After,” named after his current two-CD retrospective of his solo work, Hall is focusing on music he recorded as a standalone act.
Walking onstage as the backing band had already kicked off Hall’s 1986 top ten intro, “Dreamtime”, Hall calmly took their place center stage. Dressed in black and also sporting a pair of sunglasses, he appeared to be in vocal form for the first selection of the evening.
A backdrop that depicted the house Hall performs in throughout his long-running live music program “Live from Daryl’s House” and a neon sign featuring the show’s graphic logo hung behind the band and completed by many twinkling lights that also adorned the stage. Hall benefited from a superb, clear and expertly mixed sound mix (as Rundgren had done earlier) but seemed troubled by the mix coming from the monitors at his feet on stage. Constantly waving at the monitors, then making several hand gestures while looking towards the wings of the stage, it appeared that Hall was having trouble hearing what the monitors were emitting. To his credit, he kept his composure and remained jovial throughout the night despite his sound issues which continued throughout the performance.
Touting his current solo anthology and offering insight into many of the songs he’s unveiled, the show felt like a more intimate, personal experience than a typical Hall & Oates concert. Playing in a theatre, closer to the audience and with the luxury of playing songs he’s not used to playing, it was a more energetic and engaged Daryl Hall than many local audiences saw during of the latest H&O shows. which have taken place in recent years.
For one of his many spoken intros, Hall talked about “It’s Uncanny”, an obscure selection from the Hall & Oates catalog that never saw the light of day until it was included on a compilation disc that the duo’s former label, Atlantic Records, launched together in the 1970s. Philadelphia and benefited from DeChant’s clever sax work.
Other jaw-dropping moments came as Hall returned to his fantastic (but grossly neglected) debut solo album, sacred songs. Recorded in 1977 with musical virtuoso and founder of King Crimson Robert Fripp, the record did not see a proper release until 1980 due to the label’s refusal to release what it found to be a less than commercial sounding album. It has since become a fan favorite and hearing both the title track and the very Steely Dan “Babs and Babs” from that album was a real highlight of the night.
Hall revisited the deep cut album from the 1980s hit Hall & Oates album Voice, “Everytime You Go Away” and spoke of the song’s success in the mid-1980s when British pop singer Paul Young made it a worldwide hit with his version. For this reading, Hall took the song with a gospel-tinged tone and turned it into a near-funk jam near the end.
Switching to a grand piano at the side of the stage, Hall was able to switch gears and try his hand at a well-known hit from another popular 1980s duo, Eurythmics. Having worked with Dave Stewart in the past (while producing Hall’s second solo album, 1986’s Three hearts in the happy ending machine), Hall tipped his hat to Stewart and his musical partner, Annie Lennox, performing a sparse version of the torchlight ballad from that pair’s 1983 hit, “Here Comes the Rain Again.” Accompanied only by lead guitarist Shane Theriot on acoustic guitar, the song took on a more soulful, jazz-inspired feel with this unique rendition.
Drawing on more familiar material to close out the main set, Hall fell back on H&O classics “Sara Smile” and “I Can’t Go For That” which inspired groups of patrons to stand and dancing in the aisles. Vocally improvising and standing in front of an electric piano at the front of the stage, Hall genuinely seemed to be having almost as much fun as those dancing to the music he played.
Bringing back old friend (and former Hall & Oates album producer) Todd Rundgren, the duo released an encore that included a stunning duet on “Wait For Me,” a minor Hall & Oates hit from 1979 as well as the inspiration Soul by Rundgren. 1978 ballad, “Can We Still Be Friends”. Paying homage to their local roots, the duo also revived the ’60s hit ‘Expressway to Your Heart’, originally recorded by Soul Survivors, a Philadelphia-based bar band who achieved national success with the classic. written by the godfathers of The Soul Sound of Philadelphia, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Closing the show with one of Hall & Oates’ most familiar tunes, “You Make My Dreams”, Daryl Hall happily ended on a high note after showing off all of his many talents throughout his 95-minute set. It was a rare glimpse for many of his fans to see the artist perform without the restraints or limitations of playing standard and expected hit songs and instead stretch a bit and revisit some real gems that receive hardly the live treatment they have so lavishly. deserve.