Hanson is MMMBetter than their big hit song. Much, much, much better.
The “MMMBop” boys performed at the 2018 New York State Fair on Thursday night, blessing the Chevy Court crowd of 14,400 (official estimate) with more than 20 songs spanning their two decades-plus career. And yes, they played their biggest hit, but they also showed their skills beyond a pop ditty — something the die-hard fans who have stuck with them past puberty already knew about.
“It’s a lot warmer than last time we were in Syracuse,” lead singer Taylor Hanson remarked with a smile.
(The band last performed in Central New York on New Year’s Eve in 2013 at a frigidly cold outdoors First Night celebration at Onondaga Lake Park.)
“MMMBop” may have been a novelty hit, but it wasn’t a fluke. Those kids had skills and now, after 25 years of performing, they’ve honed those skills into a bona fide rock band that can mix blues, soul and Americana with fun lyrics and catchy hooks.
The first half of their set included “Where’s the Love,” “This Time Around,” “Thinkin’ Bout Somethin'” and the infectious “Hey.” Isaac Hanson, the oldest of the trio, delivered a bluesy guitar solo on “Runaway Run” and Taylor channeled Dobie Gray on their 2007 song “Been There Before.”
The second half went into more of their early material, including an acoustic version of “Madeline,” a driving rock take on “A Minute Without You” and “MMMBop” — all from 1997’s “Middle of Nowhere” album.
But lesser-known tracks like “Juliet” (featuring drummer Zac Hanson on lead vocals and Taylor on drums) and “Strong Enough to Break” command you to listen to more of their discography. Their upcoming album, “String Theory” with new songs and orchestral versions of past hits, will be their ninth release in 21 years.
And you’ve got to respect the boldness of a band who doesn’t close with their biggest hit. No, Hanson played “MMMBop” an hour into their 90-minute show, then immediately kept the audience going with fist-pumping, crowd-jumping songs like “Get the Girl Back,” “Fired Up” and “In the City.”
They wrapped up the show with a two-song encore, covering Aretha Franklin’s “Think” (with respect to the Queen of Soul) and an all-out fun performance of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top.”
(It’s a long way to the top, indeed, but in an MMMBop you’re gone. We miss you, Aretha.)
Of course, it’s still weird to see the Hanson brothers in their 30s, with varying amounts of facial hair, married with kids — Taylor is expecting his sixth child in December — and they even have their own beer: MMMHops.
Every artist gets older, though exceptions exist like Pharrell and Gwen Stefani. It’s just weirder in Hanson’s case because Taylor was 14, Isaac was 16 and Zac was 11 in 1997 when “MMMBop” hit No. 1 in 27 countries and received two Grammy nominations. (They’re now 35, 37 and 32 years old.)
But they still have boyish charms — Zac looked like a bashful pre-teen again when he heard a few female fans scream his name. And they’re still humble, passionate about the music, and appreciative of the fans.
“Thanks for taking crap if you’ve followed this band along the way,” Taylor joked.
They also showed their good sense of humor by letting the other Hanson brothers (from “Slap Shot”) introduce them on stage. Steve Carlson and Dave Hanson, who played two of the three hockey goons in the 1976 movie (that was partly filmed in Syracuse), will be showing the cult classic on the ice rink at the new Expo Center on the state fairgrounds Friday night.
Hanson setlist – Aug. 30, 2018 at Chevy Court, NYS Fair
I’ve Got Soul
Where’s the Love
Waiting for This
Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’
Been There Before
This Time Around
Strong Enough to Break (acoustic)
Penny & Me (acoustic)
Juliet (with Zac on vocals/piano, Taylor on drums)
I Was Born
And I Waited (Zac on lead vocals)
A Minute Without You
Get the Girl Back
In the City
Think (Aretha Franklin cover)
It’s a Long Way to the Top (AC/DC cover)