Hanson brings sophisticated soul, sentimental touches Saturday at the House of Blues (review)

By | October 20, 2013


Many casual listeners consider Hanson a one-hit wonder thanks to the band’s chart-topping 1997 hit, “MMMBop.”

However, the rabid, fiercely loyal fans at the band’s Saturday night concert at the House of Blues would certainly disagree with that statement. Several crowd members sported homemade T-shirts proclaiming their Hanson fandom, and the audience started chanting the band’s name with gusto even before it took the stage.

The screams only intensified when Hanson did finally emerge shortly after 9:15, and this enthusiasm didn’t wane during the nearly two-hour set.

Such excitement was justified, however: Hanson—brothers Isaac, Zac and Taylor, along with an auxiliary bassist and a keyboardist/guitarist—put on a professional, engaging concert full of sentimental moments.

The setlist spanned the band’s entire career and covered plenty of sonic ground, from bubblegum soul (“Waiting For This”) and smoky blues (“Tragic Symphony”) to swaggering rock (the organ-brushed “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin'”) and tongue-twisting pop (“A Minute Without You”).

Hanson also nodded to these diverse influences with a few choice covers. Standout “Crazy Beautiful” segued right into a faithful rendition of the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” while the horn-accented, frothy soul of “Get The Girl Back” went right into the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”

Songs from the band’s latest album, “Anthem,” also fared well. The string-adorned “Juliet,” nasty funk rocker “You Can’t Stop Us” and classic rock-leaning “Cut Right Through Me” were darker and more mature than previous work.

This depth suited Hanson, as it allowed the brothers to showcase more sophisticated subject matter, some rather impressive musical chops—especially Isaac’s nuanced guitar and Zac’s ferocious drumming— and rich, resonant harmonies.

However, a stripped-down set—during which acoustic guitars and piano dominated—was just as successful, as it let the brothers connect with the crowd more intimately.

“This year our band is 21 years old,” Taylor announced before a rollicking version of “This Time Around” bolstered by some boogie-woogie ivory tickling. “On and On,” which featured Isaac on mandolin and gorgeous three-part harmonies, resembled the Avett Brothers.

Each band member also took turns playing a song solo, which led to some of the night’s most moving moments.

Zac unearthed the live rarity “Broken Angel,” Isaac tackled new song “For Your Love”—a lovely song he dedicated to “hopeless romantics”—and Taylor performed an emotion-filled piano version of the early tune “With You In Your Dreams.”

During the encore, another early tune—the pogo-pop favorite “If Only”—segued right into yet another cover: Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Opening act David Ryan Harris jumped back onstage and took lead vocals, delighting the audience and the band.

Naturally, though, the night’s biggest ovation came for “MMMBop,” which Hanson saved for late in the set. The timeless song has matured along with the band, thanks to stacked harmonies and deeper grooves, as well as a slightly slower tempo.

Harris’ brief opening acoustic set was pleasant and distinguished by his voice, a velvety croon with just the smallest hint of grit. Sadly, his sparse performances were almost swallowed by crowd chatter and conversation.

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