Hanson’s Saturday night show was a high energy, non-stop, 100-minute rollercoaster, a tribute to the band’s enthusiasm. The interactive concert had the crowd jumping, singing, clapping, dancing, and—perhaps most significantly for a band who still boasts much of their boy band appeal—grabbing the hand of their favourite Hanson brother.
That’s not to say the band hasn’t matured: they’ve actually gone electric, adding new riffs to old songs, incorporating horns in new songs. They will soon launch their own brand of beer, Mmmhop, evidence of the band’s maturation – but more on that later.
“What’s been really cool about the last 15 years is you have countless opportunities to get out there and to make another record and to have a different relationship with your audience,” Isaac Hanson, the oldest brother and the band’s guitarist, told me before the show. “You are always looking for that kernel of insight. The great thing about it is that that kernel is new every single day.”
The opening song, “Wait It Out,” had fans singing the title line of the group’s most recent album Shout It Out, their fifth studio release. During the band’s cover of The Beatles’ “Oh Darling,” youngest brother and drummer Zac Hanson held the syllable “Oh” while Taylor Hanson, middle brother and pianist, chugged a bottle of water. The band’s oldest songs appeared near the end of the show – but even “Mmmbop” now includes electric riffs, and the song benefits from this new sound.
“I think we all just love what we do in one form or another,” Isaac said about keeping their sound fresh. “We’re all just really excited to do it. The enthusiasm isn’t lost on us.”
Although they have released four albums since Middle of Nowhere hit radio waves in 1997, Isaac maintains that the purpose behind their music remains the same.
“I think as a songwriter you are always just trying to have an honest emotional connection with somebody no matter what the song specifically is about. Sometimes it’s just about celebrating life, sometimes it’s just about challenging yourself to rise to the occasion. Sometimes it’s lamenting the loss of someone… You’re always just searching for that kernel of honest emotion and a unique way to tell it every time.”
The brothers, especially Taylor and Isaac, also love beer. They will launch their beer brand Mmmhop, an India Pale Ale, in both the US and Canada in the spring. Isaac said that, while the beer’s name is “tongue in cheek,” the idea sprang from the band’s collaborations with local chocolate and coffee artisans.
“We really loved what these people did, and then that love for what they did inspired us to say, we should do something with this chocolate maker or coffee roaster, because they’re really good at what they do,” Isaac said. “We found a way to put it out with our own spin on it.
“The beer is our reflection of our appreciation of an art form, and the spirit it puts you in.”
The brothers have branched out in other ways: the new video for “Thinkin Bout Something” belatedly showcases their awkward dance moves.
Isaac explained why they did not bust a move in Thunder Bay: “We are not dancers, as has been proven by all the years of music videos and whatever. We’ll leave the pop and lock to Usher and Bieber, with all of their agility.”
No matter the quality of the band’s — and the audience’s — dancing, what Isaac calls the “carpe diem” attitude behind many of their songs gets infused into live performances, leading fans, literally, to jump out of their seats.
Photo by Gary Musson/ARGUS