Longtime Tulsa pop trio Hanson loves its home city. Drummer Zac Hanson recently spoke to the Tulsa World about the city, the tour, playing Cain’s Ballroom again, playing entire albums from their catalog albums live and helping out fellow “road dogs” such as Sara Bareilles.
This time around, the band’s “Musical Ride” tour allows fans to vote on a choice of full albums to perform live at each stop. For Tulsa, the choices are 2000’s “This Time Around,” 2004’s “Underneath” or 2007’s “The Walk.”
Hanson learned each of its first five albums for a series of intimate live shows in New York. The brothers decided they should give others an opportunity to share the experience.
“Right now, we did a big tour for ‘5 of 5,’ where we played our first five studio albums live, so there’s a DVD set for that. Five DVDs live-performance box set,” Zac Hanson said.
“The recording was actually done in New York at the beginning of last year.”
Five nights, five albums, five shows, including 1997’s “Middle of Nowhere,” “This Time Around,” “Underneath,” “The Walk” and 2010’s “Shout It Out.”
They repeated the shows in London and soon realized a lot of fans each night were there every night.
“Most of the people who went to those shows bought five tickets, and so the number of people who got to experience it was quite limited. We felt like we should find a way to do it again, but we couldn’t play five nights in every city. It’s impossible to do that,” he said. So they came up with the “Musical Ride” concept.
“This is our way of taking the concept of playing entire albums and bringing it everywhere. … We wanted to give all our fans something new at each stop – working up all the songs and preparing completely different sets every night. That’s what they’re used to.”
The albums to perform were chosen at random for each stop, he said.
“It’s not like we didn’t want to play ‘Middle of Nowhere’ (the band’s first album) in Tulsa, it just didn’t come up when we randomly picked out titles,” he explained. He guesses fans just might hear that group’s first hit, “MMMBop,” anyway.
Of course, a surprise isn’t one if it’s given away.
Also, he hinted at the band’s love for Michael Jackson and the fact that they may cover a tune or two of his, too.
“Tulsa is home. We always try to make it special,” Zac Hanson said.
The band owns its own record label and controls nearly everything it does these days, which includes choosing opening acts for tours. Many national touring acts don’t get that luxury – they’re paired with other bands as “package deals” or “marketing decisions” made by other people.
For this tour, the band chose Los Angeles singer-songwriter Meiko for half the tour and Arkansas-born Charlie Mars for the other.
Tulsa gets Meiko, Hanson said.
“Meiko, we came across while making records out in LA,” Zac Hanson said. “She was playing in a place, Hotel Café, a cool little venue where lots of acoustic bands and artists play. All of us were blown away when we heard her. She’s got a great voice. Definitely, we’re fans.”
He also said Hanson fans can tell when an opening act has chemistry with the headliner. The performances should meld, he said. Fans, ideally, should experience both concerts as a full night’s experience.
“It’s really important to us who we play with. We’ve made the mistake before of touring with someone for the wrong reasons. It makes for a bad tour, and you can see it in the fan reaction. The fans can tell – they sense it in the show and in the on-stage and between-set camaraderie,” he said. “Plus, you know, we don’t ever want our fans to be like, ‘We don’t care about the opening act, we’ll come later.’ You want people to get a great show and come early and stay all night. … That’s why we have her.”
Likewise, they met Charlie Mars while putting together a streaming live concert relief benefit for the tsunami victims in Japan at the South by Southwest music festival, just after the March calamity.
“We were putting things together, band after band wanted to be part of it. We were introduced to Charlie, and he was awesome. He was like, when’s the next tour? It was that simple. We were excited to put him on.”
The Hansons are always a band to help those in need. For years, they participated in “The Walk,” events before tour stops to raise money for the neediest in Africa. They recorded the single “Great Divide” with a children’s choir in an orphanage’s cafeteria and donated all the proceeds. They speak out in support of AIDS treatment and prevention.
In smaller ways, they help other bands and artists, too. Zac Hanson said the world is a community that we all share. Heck, he even shares stages. And amps. And guitars.
Bareilles, who is known for her extensive touring, had finished her set just minutes before a catastrophic stage collapse killed seven people in August at the Indiana State Fair.
Bareilles made it out OK, but much of her stage gear was destroyed. What was left was confiscated in the mayhem following the event. It threw her whole tour into jeopardy but especially her next stop, which was Tulsa, he said.
Hanson set her up with gear so her show could go on.
“She’s worked on tours with us – we’ve worked with her. It was just a super tragic thing to have the stage collapse and kill people like that. Her gear was confiscated. It was a great thing to be available to help in any way, even if it’s just helping other artists.”
He added: “You know, as an artist or music fan, you never know when you might be caught up in that situation some day. … Everybody needs a little help sometimes. Gear gets crushed, destroyed or stolen, people end up in bad situations or their bus breaks down, so you just hope that someone returns the favor for you sometime.”
Bareilles and her band made a show of appreciation for the favor.
“She was super, super gracious about it. They wore Hanson shirts on stage for the show. It was really awesome.”
The brothers are usually pretty open about their business – they’ve spent nearly 20 years making music, after all – but their private lives are another thing entirely. Fans seem OK with that.
The Hansons have managed to eschew tabloid blowouts and public call-outs, but recently, however, brother Isaac Hanson let his tongue slip during a radio call-in show in Los Angeles.
Isaac Hanson took fellow family band Kings of Leon to task for the very public way in which it canceled several shows – then its U.S. tour – in late July.
During the highly publicized interview, Isaac Hanson had some choice (and not-for-print) words about the way the brothers and cousins – the Followill clan – were treating one another other, especially on Twitter.
Long story short, Isaac didn’t like it. He thought the band should act more respectful and grateful.
And that’s all that’s been said about it since. Did the Kings of Leon, which also has many close Oklahoma ties, respond to the band? Has Hanson had any contact or reaction since? Has their opinion changed?
The band’s publicist replied to a request for follow-up about the Followills with a short email reading, “Sorry, no comment.”
Apparently, the Hansons have moved on.
with opening act Meiko
When: Doors open 7 p.m., showtime 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Cain’s Ballroom, 423 N. Main St.
Tickets: All ages. $26, plus fees, available at all Reasor’s grocery stores, Starship Records and Ida Red. Charge by phone at 918-584-2306 or buy online at tulsaworld.com/cains
Original Print Headline: Surprises at the show
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