Hanson retrospective at Sherman Theater shows a lot about them

By | November 20, 2010

Lehigh Valley Music

With Hanson on the road to promote an upcoming career retrospective DVD, you could have expected the band’s show Friday at Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg would include all its hits.

And you’d be right. But Hanson’s show was far more.

To a nearly sold-out crowd of more than 1,200, Hanson played a two-hour show that spanned 25 full songs and snippets of two others in a mini-medley that started the show.

Taylor Hanson
Photos by Brian Hineline/Special to The Morning Call

And heavy on material from its 4-million-selling major label debut, 1997’s “Middle of Nowhere,” and its new disc, “Shout It Out” (the two accounted for 15 songs), the concert showed a lot about the group:

The strength of its old material: It would be easy to dismiss Hanson as just the band that had the monster hit “MMMBop.” Easy, but wrong. The band’s early hit hold up extraordinarily well. “Where’s The Love” is not only a good song, but danceable – as the crowd enthusiastically showed. “If Only” from 2000’s “This Time Around” had middle brother (and front man) Taylor on hot harmonica.

Its consistency:

The fact that Hanson sang songs from all of its albums except 2007’s “The Walk” (a personal disappointment; “Georgia” is a great song) showed how good its music has continued to be.

Zac Hanson

“Penny & Me” from 2004’s “Undeneath” showcased the band’s harmonies and was the highlight of a three-song, mid-show acoustic set, with the brothers alone and seated on stage (they played the rest of the show with a bassist and second guitarist/keyboardist). The crowd loved “Lost Without Each Other,” also from “Underneath.”

And the deep cuts Hanson played showed how strong the catalog is. “Speechless” from “Middle of Nowhere” thumped and churned with a sneaky, bluesy groove. During it, Taylor stepped away from the mic to sing without amplification; the crowd sang much louder. “A Minute Without You” from that disc, with Isaac again singing, also was flat-out good. And “With You in My Dreams” was touching as it built behind youngest brother Zac’s thumping drums. They even pulled out “Man from Milwaukee,” the buried “bonus track” from “Middle of Nowhere.”

The strength of its new material: “Shout It Out” may actually be Hanson’s best disc so far. Its songs not only fit in extremely well with the hits, but have roots that tap into R&B. “Thinking ‘Bout Something” was hot and funky and had the whole crowd moving. Same for “Give a Little,” which later in the show had the crowd in a frenzy. “You guys still got some bop left?” Taylor asked. And “Kiss Me When I Come Home” during the acoustic set shone, with Taylor’s honky-tonk piano.

Isaac Hanson

The talent of its members: The Hanson brothers have grown into strong musicians and good performers. Oldest brother Isaac frequently played great guitar, such as a screaming solo on “Can’t Stop” and touching lead to the cool groove of “Run Away Run,” on which Zac also thundered on drums. Taylor, who mostly stood at his piano, alternately banged the keys passionately and starkly.

They also all sing very well. Taylor, of course is the band’s identifiable voice, but Isaac was soulful and expressive singing “This Time Around,” and sang a dramatic burn on his showcase, “Hand in Hand,” whipping his head as he finished with a primal yell and strumming unrestrained as he ran along the front of the stage. He also slid across the stage on his knees as he played a rocking, partying “Lost Without Each Other.” And it’s Zac who has the trio’s best voice, showing it on the new “And I Waited” and especially on a cover of The Beatles “Oh! Darling,” when he held the middle not for a good 15 seconds.

Its growth: Hanson is an anomaly when it comes to boy bands or ‘tween acts. Not only are its members talented musicians and singers, but they’ve grown with the years, and clearly transcended its ‘tween beginnings. Which leads us to …

The continued devotion of its fans: Somehow, as Hanson has grown, so have its fans. The crowd was, admittedly, still overwhelmingly female. But this was no boy band or nostalgia trip. The audience related to the new material as well as the old; danced, clapped and jumped as adult fans, not teeny-boppers. The energy was palpable for the entire show and rose – literally, as in heat – from the crowd.

Of course, there’s still the emotional connection to “MMMBop” – “The song you probably heard first,” Taylor told the crowd. And which Hanson played it rock-solid, with strict adherence to the original version. And the whole crowd sang.

But Hanson also was great on a ragged, funky cover of The Beach Boys’ “Merry Christmas Baby,” with which they closed – acknowledging the impending holidays. So go ahead and love Hanson for MMMBop but recognize they’ve grown up, and are even better now.