Hall & Oates
Bournemouth International Centre
Thursday 17th July 2014 8 pm
Out of Touch
Say It Isn’t So
Back Together Again
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
Do What You Want, Be What You Are
I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
You Make My Dreams
encore 2 (assumed)
Kiss On My List
Virgin Records, Oxford Street. Back in the days when they were upstairs over a shop. I was browsing and was excited to find a bootleg LP set from Watkins Glen, featuring The Band, The Grateful Dead & The Allman Brothers. It was frighteningly expensive. We were in there a while, grooving to a couple of pleasant but unfamiliar songs. The first one, When The Morning Comes particularly got to me. What a great single this would be, I thought. Up came Had I Known You Better Then. Great relaxing music to browse to. The third one started, and I stopped browsing to listen. Las Vegas Turnaround. Then the next one came on, with its long hypnotic instrumental introduction, She’s Gone. I went to the counter and asked what the album was. Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates. An American import copy at a premium price. They were playing piano and guitar themselves too.
I couldn’t afford both albums. I’m a dedicated fan of The Band. What to do? I asked advice. The guy behind the counter said, listen to She’s Gone again, and turned it up more. And I came out with Abandoned Luncheonette. Regrets? Well, nowadays Abandoned Luncheonette is pretty easy to find, and I never saw that Watkins Glen vinyl bootleg again. But it is still a stunning album, and I’ve heard cassettes of Watkins Glen and they’re not very good. Side one is the killer, but the long closing track on side two, Everytime I Look At You, starts out like a funky guitar workout moves through stadium pomp-rock guitar soloing and vocals, and then breaks into a Seatrain-style country hoedown to take it to the end.
I bought Bigger Than Both Of Us on release, and I guess Rich Girl is my favourite all-time Hall & Oates song.
The Setlist site shows four identical sets for the British tour. It’s good to see Las Vegas Turnaround and She’s Gone in their original position next to each other, then Sara Smile who I guess is the same Sara who was a stewardess going to Las Vegas, or as they’re now called, flight attendant. It all links up – She’s gone … to Las Vegas … But unchanging setlists, generally, is a bad sign.
So to the BIC (Bournemouth International Centre). You CAN get good sound here, but probably only if you bring your sound crew on a world tour and they’re highly competent (and indeed, American). Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, k.d.lang all got superb sound in this hall. Two of those had Canadian crews … I spoke to them. On the other hand, Ray Davies, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, The Mavericks and many others sounded dire, including both the last two we saw here: Rodriguez and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Because of dire sound in the stalls recently we elected for dead centre balcony.
Oh, dear. I sussed it in the support set by Longfellow … a nice band, probably too R.E.M. influenced, but all competent with good melodies. The vocals were echoing horribly and the instruments a loud distorted mush. Very poor sound mixing.
Don’t worry, I said, they’ll get it right for Hall & Oates.
Where we were sitting, balcony Row E, centre
Hall & Oates sound, in Row E, centre balcony was far worse than the support band. Vocals were a vague echo upon an echo, the backing ludicrously overpowered for the hall, bouncing and echoing far into distortion, so instruments were indistinguishable except for the pedestrian, plodding farting bass guitarist and the competent but clichéd saxophonist. All in all, Hall & Oates would rate as some of the worst major artists I have seen since the late 70s. They comprehensively pissed on their legend, so much so, that I might as well drop my CDs in the trash, as after they murdered some of my all-time favourite songs, I can’t see me playing the CDs or LPs for a long time. Now, I will say they were getting lots of feverish applause and people standing to clap, Maybe it sounded fine in the stalls. But it was truly horrible where we were sitting. And tasteless.
This is a first for me: we left after the first encore. Having heard Las Vegas Turnaround, She’s Gone, Sara Smile and Rich Girl shat upon from a great height, I couldn’t bear to see Kiss On My List and Private Eyes get the death knell too.And we could guess the set list is as fixed as their smiles and hairdos.
The best number was I Can’t Go For That, because it was five minutes of sax playing which sounded clean in contrast to the distorted echoing vocal. Not original, but clear and clean and well-played and a joy not to hear them singing. The only thing worth listening to all evening. The sound was also marginally better when Daryl Hall shifted to keyboards … he was on guitar all the main set until the last number, then he stayed on keyboards for Rich Girl and You Make My Dreams. Perhaps one less guitar in the mix removed some confusion.
The sound crew are the first to blame, but Longfellow mentioned hearing Hall & Oates soundcheck. Could no one be bothered to walk up the steps to the balconies? OK, a hall sounds different when filled with bodies than it does empty, but the cavernous B.I.C. has so much space above the bodies that it shouldn’t make a huge difference … anyway bodies quieten and remove some echo. To sound too loud, distorted and echoing when it’s full, it must have sounded far worse empty. Do Hall & Oates trust their sound people totally? There are still performers who’ll get the band going and walk out at the soundcheck to hear for themselves. Maybe what those distant figure were putting into their mics was OK at source. It surely wan’t at the other end of the speakers. Watching the applause below us, it did remind me of seeing Eddie Izzard, the comedian, in this venue. He had zero mic technique and mumbled. We were in the balcony. The people in the stalls were crying with laughter. Everyone around us, like us, walked out. Couldn’t hear a thing he said. So it is a difficult hall. However, when you have a support band, with full electric line up (rather than the solo songwriter) it’s easy. One of the crew should be touring the hall during the support act, checking the sound. However for the backing band to sound THAT messy, it has to be messy at source.
Final verdict: they were dreadful. We have seen four bands in two days. Of Tom Jones, The Bleedin’ Noses and support act Longfellow, Hall & Oates came off a long, long way behind as fourth in quality. Pissing on four of my favourite songs is unforgiveable.
Overpriced, over-amplified and forty years past their sell-by-date. Sorry. An act to be avoided. I hate to be cruel, but it cost a lot of money to see this utter crap.
I will note that both The Guardian and The Telegraph reviewed them in London a few days earlier and both gave them four stars and said they were excellent. So … am I the little boy pointing at the Emperor’s New Clothes, or is it a bad sound crew in Bournemouth? Was it good elsewhere in the hall?
Also, given the choice of two venues in future, I’ll drive the hundred miles to Brighton rather than the five miles to BIC.