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by David Chiu

17 Mar 2016


Daryl Hall and John Oates’ performance at New York City’s Madison Square Garden for the first time in over three decades seemed to be a further extension of the momentum they had built in the last ten years. While they’ll always be forever associated with the ‘80s, the period of their greatest commercial success, the two have experienced a renewed appreciation for their music mostly due to Hall’s web music performance series “Live From Daryl’s House”, and their much-belated induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Amid the constant changing trends and styles in music, Hall and Oates have become fashionable again.

That was clearly the case at the sold-out Garden show in February, a mostly rock and soul affair, with guests Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Mayer Hawthorne opening for the duo. While the gig drew mostly older fans now in their ‘50s and ‘60s, there were also a few younger ones in attendance—a testament of Hall and Oates’ continued appeal to different generations, as hits like “Rich Girl”, “She’s Gone”, “Kiss on My List” and “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” still get airplay decades later.

A packed house in “the worlds’s most famous arena” must have felt like old times for both the headliners and longtime fans circa 1984. Hall and Oates hearkened back that feeling when they finally got on stage and performed strictly the hits and then some—kicking it off with “Out of Touch” and followed by such classics as “Maneater”, “Say It Isn’t So”, “She’s Gone” and “Sara Smile”. They and the band also unearthed some of the lesser-known hits including “Family Man” and “Did It in a Minute”, along with deeper cuts from the ‘70s like “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” and “Do What You Want, Be What You Are”. Appropriately, Hall and Oates paid homage to another blue-eyed soul duo, the Righteous Brothers, with their cover of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’”, written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil—songwriters linked to New York City’s Brill Building sound.

Those songs and the other bigger hits performed later in the show, including “Kiss on My List” and “Private Eyes”, sounded looser and more organic in a live setting than their original studio incarnations, giving more of an opportunity for the band to stretch out musically. For example “I Can’t Go for That” became like an extended funk jam highlighted by longtime member Charlie DeChant’s saxophone playing. At the end of the show, Hall and Oates brought out Sharon Jones and Mayer Hawthorne in which they all performed the Delfonics’ classic “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”—fittingly bringing the proceedings to their soulful conclusion.

In the last couple of years, Hall and Oates have worked on their own individual solo projects, but there’s still something special when the two get together. Hall acted the role of a charismatic evangelist at times with his gritty voice, while Oates provided the counterpoint with his soulful lead and harmony singing as well. Backed by a solid band, the duo sounded fresh during the Garden show, not bad for an act that is approaching 50 years and still enjoying a renaissance late in their career. These days, it’s kind of hip to be a Hall and Oates fan.

Set List

Out of Touch
Family Man
Maneater
Did It in a Minute
Say It Isn’t So
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
Sara Smile
Do What You Want, Be What You Are
I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)
Rich Girl
You Make My Dreams

Encore

Kiss on My List
Private Eyes
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” (with Sharon Jones and Mayer Hawthorne)

by Sachyn Mital

9 Mar 2016


Watching Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn perform is to experience both the powerful interplay between their two different styles of banjo and to witness some hilarious banter between the married couple. Just a week or two before they were set to perform at the 92Y, Fleck and Washburn earned a Grammy award for Best Folk album for their record Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn. But they didn’t let that award go to their heads (Fleck has already won over a dozen anyways). Instead, they expressed being humbled to be performing in a space where so many great intellectuals had spoken.

As Fleck explained at one point, he plays banjo in a traditional style, similar to Earl Scruggs, by up-picking with the fingers and down-picking with his thumb. On the other hand, Washburn performs utilizing the clawhammer style (mostly down-picking) that Doc Watson was best known for. But there is no obvious impediment to performing together as the two sounded brilliant on stage. Both brought material that has previously been performed before the two began their collaboration. Early in the set they performed a classic Flecktones song, “New South Africa”, one of my live favorites for the full band, stripped down which allowed the vibrant banjo to shine. Later on, Washburn singing in Mandarin, a language she studied in college and refined abroad, performed a song that had its roots in China’s Western Sìchuān Province.

by Sachyn Mital

26 Feb 2016


Josh Ritter‘s Sermon on the Rocks is his most ebullient album to date. And, as implausibly as it sounds if you have seen him live, Ritter appears happier than ever while performing—so much so that his fans are becoming even more effusive. Rarely, if ever, have I seen the entire audience rise for an artist before his encore. But for Ritter’s homecoming (of sorts) show in New York they were up (but sat back down after) for “Getting Ready to Get Down”. Even as headlining the gorgeous Beacon Theatre was a triumphant achievement for Ritter, he calm his nerves, he told the audience he was pretending the show was in the tiny Mercury Lounge. But the deceit didn’t matter to the crowd. Many people sang along as Ritter and the Royal City Band performed a smattering of new tracks and old favorites over the 100-plus-minute set.

by Sachyn Mital

24 Feb 2016


At an American Songbook show, one should expect some backstory to the music. As Foreigner have been performing without co-founder Lou Gramm for over a decade now, the onus of sharing tidbits from the band’s history fell to Mick Jones. Jones described how the band recorded some of their songs nearby and their record label was a block or two over, above where Starbucks is now. On the other hand, Kelly Hansen, the vocalist/replacement for Gramm, shared more recent stories of the band, including an acoustic show in Europe, and ribbed Jones for forgetting to introduce him. Both were ecstatic to be playing in the Appel Room, with it’s huge windows overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park.

by Sachyn Mital

23 Feb 2016


The Cactus Blossoms are two brothers from Minneapolis, Jack Torrey and Page Burkum, whose rich harmonies and early country sound are reminiscent of the Everly Brothers. Their voices blend into a pastiche of nostalgia but the band incorporates modern elements into their songs and stories. Just take a listen to the lyrics for “Stoplight Kisses”, the first song off their new album You’re Dreaming. People in the audience who had seen the duo before were pleased to see the addition of upright bassist Andy Carroll and drummer Chris Hepola (left-handed they noted) to the ensemble. The Cactus Blossoms’ set included a few classic covers as well as their own material. The Bowery Presents noted, “The Cactus Blossoms dipped expertly into Hank Williams (“Your Cheatin’ Heart”), Waylon Jennings (“Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line”) and others, but let many of their own tunes carry the night, from “A Sad Day to Be You” and “You’re Dreaming” to “Powder Blue” and “Stoplight Kisses”. But he standout may have been “Queen of Them All”, a swooning ballad that turned into a deeply felt romantic declaration with a happy ending.

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