Some people might think Hanson ceased to exist around 1997. The group certainly seemed to fall off the map of mainstream music not long after its one big radio hit, “MMMBop.”
Don’t tell that to the hundreds that packed the State Theatre Sunday night to see an older and more mature version of that same Hanson band.
Hanson, along with opening acts Everybody Else and Dave Barnes, came to State College on its “Walk Around the World” tour and sold out the venue.
Everybody Else, a Los Angeles three piece, played enjoyable guitar-driven pop. It gave the waiting Hanson fans a chance to clap along, while the band’s drummer held his drumstick between his teeth to play the keyboard.
Dave Barnes’ music was surprisingly funky, almost R&B. He started his set with some wah-pedaled guitar and kept up the attitude for most of his set, his smooth vocals at times resembling John Mayer. He kept the audience involved with singalongs on songs like “Someday, Sarah,” and his between-song quips and jokes were well received.
When Hanson took the stage around 10 p.m., the predominantly female crowd filled the Theatre with screams. Zac, Taylor and Isaac Hanson might be more than 10 years older now, but they still hold the same heartthrob status with their fans.
Taylor promised a mixture of old and new songs and the band delivered on the promise; the fans knew the words to old and new alike. Along with the originals, the brothers included some classics: the second song of their set was a rousing rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher.” The rest of the early set was soulful pop music with a joyful tone that at times even resembled secular praise music.
This was definitely a more mature band, though the Taylor onstage sounded surprisingly similar to the one who had sung “MMMBop” as a teenager. The boys in the band are solid musicians, perhaps as a result of over 15 years in the music business.
Midway through the band’s set, Zac came out from behind the kit and the brothers played an “acoustic” set, including solo songs by Zac (“Where Did It Start”) and Isaac (“Deeper”). When the backing band came back onstage, Hanson tore into the Allman Brothers Band’s “Soulshine,” which Taylor called a “modern classic.” It was, unfortunately, one of the few songs for which the audience didn’t seem to know the words.
Near the end of the set, Hanson played a block of songs from its 1997 smash Middle of Nowhere including “Where’s the Love” and “Thinking of You.” “MMMBop,” of course, was met with the loudest screams of the night, and the fans got what they came to hear.
Despite having to endure years of derision and relegation to a musical punchline, Hanson is a band reborn. The brothers have solid enough chops to gain the respect of the most cynical music snob, and they proved it on Sunday.