Ray Charles once asked the rhetorical question, “What is a soul? It’s like electricity—we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.” If that’s the case, then the argument can be made that Daryl Hall and John Oates were responsible for energizing the charts for a good part of the 1980s thanks to the 34 chart hits the duo landed on Billboard’s US Hot 100 that included six chart-toppers. For Daryl Hall, soul music has always been something he’s gravitated to, growing up in Philadelphia around the time that non-regional labels like Motown and Stax/Volt were emerging.
“Local soul singers around me [really resonated], particularly the ones transitioning out of street-corner music. They were influences on me. Outside of Philly, I liked Curtis Mayfield, Wilson Pickett—you name it,” he explained.
Fast forward to 2017 and Hall and Oates are out on the road with Tears For Fears, which may seem to be an odd combination at a first glance. But for Hall, the idea of a rock and soul act sharing the bill with a synthpop outfit is far from incongruous, despite the seemingly different fan bases.
“The shows have been slightly different because they play a different kind of music than we do,” he said. “But at the same time, I think that their fans certainly relate to what we do. They have a certain kind of timelessness to their music and it’s melodic. I think our fans really relate to that, so it works for me.”
As for what fans can expect from the Philly duo alongside requisite self-penned like “Say It Isn’t So,” “Sara Smile” and “Out Of Touch” are covers ranging from Mike Oldfield (“Family Man”) to The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”). Hall is having a blast on the road and part of it may have to do with the live presentation he and Oates are delivering to the delight of both the duo and the audience.
“I think what we’ve done that’s a bit different from what we’ve done in the past is make it a little bit more textural. I’m trying to make it more like Live From Daryl’s House. It’s a lot of close-ups, so you feel like you’re on stage with the band. We’ve changed up the song structure, so they flow in a slightly different way. I play a grand piano on a few songs, so that changes the mood,” he pointed out. “There are a lot of little mood changes in the show. It’s not just us going out there and playing wham, wham, wham—one song after the other. There’s a bit of nuance involved and everybody seems to like it and we like doing it, so that’s good.”
As if being one half of Hall & Oates isn’t enough, the septuagenarian singer-songwriter has kept busy with his passion for home restoration and recording an unnamed solo record along with work on the aforementioned Live From Daryl’s House, his online webshow/podcast that’s been getting television airtime since 2011. With a premise that finds him performing with his band and various guest artists, Hall has managed to bring fans back to the basics of creating music and presenting it in a live setting minus the bells and whistles that give so much contemporary music a prefabricated vibe.
As the consummate music fan, Hall has had a wide array of musicians drop by his show including Cheap Trick, Shelby Lynne, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, the late Sharon Jones, Toots and the Maytals, Smokey Robinson, Nick Lowe and Elle King. Given the fact that oftentimes he doesn’t know many of these performers before they appear on camera together, this winds up being another factor that adds to the spontaneity inherent to the show.
I just wanted to do something that was the opposite of what I’d been doing [on the road]. Well, there’d be no audience and that makes people react differently, when there’s nobody watching other than the millions of people that watch the show,” he said with a laugh. “As far as being in the room, it creates an informal situation that you can’t create if you’re going to be on stage. It was that and I really wanted the audience to feel like a fly on the wall. I wanted it to be a natural experience and to hear how we create songs. We do it all on camera. We don’t rehearse. You see the rehearsals and we go through these songs very quickly.”
He continued, “I like that being-on-your-toes kind of feeling. I never know what’s going to happen with these new guests because a lot of these people, I’ve never met before. In general, the show is a forum to be really excited all the time and I think you can see it on our faces. We’re constantly feeling like what we’re doing is great. Then you add some food to the mix and you have a show.”
Daryl Hall & John Oates appear with Tear for Fears on June 16 at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, 1 Tennis Place, Forest Hills. Visit www.foresthillsstadium.com for more information.