Hanson at Mesa Arts Center Last Night

By | September 15, 2010

Phoenix News Times

Right now, as I write this sentence, I’m listening to Middle of Nowhere, Hanson’s major label debut from 1997. That record of course contains “MMMBop” but it’s the first verse of “Thinking of You” that I’m spinning — it’s undeniable pop goodness.

I got home from Hanson’s gig in Mesa about an hour ago. Whether there would be any remnants of the good-natured teen mayhem of the band’s early career was my main curiosity. I mean, what does it really mean to attend a Hanson concert in 2010? This was my third time seeing the band, although it’s been about 10 years since my last live Hanson encounter.

Now, I’ve arrived at the chorus of “MMMBop.”

I think most people wonder if Hanson still play that song live. They do. As much as it permeated our collective conscience in the late ’90s, it still sounds fresh live. It’s not like listening back on Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys — there’s no kitsch. Just good music. Well-struck chords arranged in a desirable manner and harmonies so dead on that it conjures up thoughts of the Beach Boys’ perfection.

They didn’t play “Weird,” although I was rooting for it to make the set. And as the night went on, I realized they didn’t really need to rely on that first record so much. See, Hanson have been churning out albums since their first big hit, and each one has had at least one or two songs that are top-10 worthy achievements. That’s what brought me and about 500 other fans to Mesa last night.

But, was there mayhem? The trio were consistently mobbed by crowds of shrieking tweens at the height of their fame, as shown in the documentary Tulsa, Tokyo and the Middle of Nowhere. Girls would cry. Girls would draw signs proclaiming their love for the band. Girls would paint t-shirts with Hanson’s logo and whatever else they thought might help them stand out in a sea of youthful insanity.

When I took my seat on the balcony, right away I noticed that the piano was facing me, meaning that I would get an unparalleled view of the one and only Taylor Hanson for the duration of the show. Why hadn’t I made a sign? I didn’t see anyone else with a sign, so I let it go. I didn’t cry, although I’ve never cried at a Hanson concert. However, I did, in a bout of prolonged fervor, eat a whole thing of mints. (I didn’t eat dinner, so it’s hard to say what the actual culprit of the mint eating was.)

There were a couple of ladies who wore homemade Hanson tees that read “Team Hanson” on the front and a jersey-style 97 on the back. Quite a few of people in the crowd chose to change into their purchases before the set accordingly. But, none of that qualified the night as one filled with mayhem. There was screaming, though, and plenty of it. Severely uninhibited dancing, obedient clapping and compulsive singing all followed.

I’m just finishing up “Speechless,” and “Where’s The Love” is starting in.

Taylor still flips his hair and furrows his brow, Isaac has amassed quite the impressive pedal board and is always surprisingly great when taking on lead vocals, and Zac continues to be amused by proclamations of undying love and the inability of the most die hard fans to not scream their lungs out, no matter how quiet the song.

“It’s like a bidding war,” Zac said with regard to fans yelling out their love for him. “‘I love you,’ ‘No I love you,’ and ‘I love you 20.'”

Taylor then offered to sell Zac for $5,000.

Wholesome is almost too sweet a word to describe Hanson, but it works. Wholesome and legitimate, musically, which isn’t an easy a thing to come by. Wholesomeness can be manufactured — like the Partridge Family — but Hanson aren’t playing on their being brothers. They’re three married guys with babies. They don’t swear in their music, say anything particularly political, wear costumes or try to mold their sound into whatever single’s caught the public’s ear this week. There’s a kind of honesty. But also a kind of Pavlovian power they hold. Just a few songs in to their set, I might as well have been 13 again.

“Yearbook” and “Look At You” play now. The former creeped me out then, and still manages to be eerie now.

Do I still have a voice? I’m a bit hoarse. Am I wearing the purple shirt I bought at the show that boldly announces “I Love Hanson”? No, but it is sitting next to me and I considered it.

Critic’s Bias: I was convinced for a period of time that Taylor Hanson and I would one day be married.

The Crowd: I’ll take a guess and go with 98% female.

Overheard in the Crowd: Someone requested “Madeline.” It didn’t happen, unfortunately.

Random Notebook Dump: Frankie Muniz’s girlfriend was in front of me in line at will call. How do I know it was her? She was having some sort of guest list issue and said the name Frankie probably five times. Later they sat together while Hanson played.

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