Daryl is in his house with Todd Rundgren

Daryl is in his house with Todd Rundgren

Concert Review
Daryl Hall and the Daryl’s House Band
Nov. 27

SM MOA Arena

KATHNIEL’S break-up didn’t register on my seismic scale of dismay, but Daryl sowing creative oats without John, though admittedly for years now, was disconcerting. What is the sky without the earth, coffee without cream, water without two doses of Hall’s lead vocals and one dose of the back-up harmonies of Oates?

They never actually legally broke up while crafting their solo careers. (Seriously, have you heard anything either has done, on their own?) But viral headlines have emblazoned a restraining order, one accusing the other of bad faith over the shared custody of their offspring: a multi-million dollar playbook that John Oates seeks to divest and sell to other parties, allegedly without Daryl Hall’s knowledge. Accusations ping pong across legal nets, and one can’t help but think there are deeply personal issues at play here.

Hall developed a loyal following through his music series Live from Daryl’s House, first broadcast online in 2007, now playing on multiple channels on its 89th episode. I’d only heard about this show at a recent whisky sampler evening at home, and amidst a mellow buzz, saw YouTube videos of a very generous Hall opening up his home to musical artists of all genres as he lets them shine singing their own music. They are accompanied by superb musicians known as Daryl’s House Band that also provide the background vocals. Oates appeared in an episode or two as one of the earliest guests, and the title of one of the duets? “Backstabber.” Prophetic?

Featured guests would also sing from the Hall and Oates song catalog and infuse new life with the interpretation. Listen to a more mature rendition of “I Do” by the latest House guest Lisa Loeb with Hall’s gruff second voice, and a completely fresh viewpoint of Loeb as a woman blasting the entitlement of a spoilt brat in “Rich Girl,” one of Hall and Oates’ number one singles.

And if Hall can’t bring you to his house, he brings his House to the world in a multi-country tour called Daryl Hall and the Daryl’s House Band. A one-night show at SM Mall of Asia Arena held a stage recreated to look like you were invited to Daryl’s house. The audience area was three-fourths full, pretty terrific for an artist whose major hits are from the 1970s to the ’90s.

But Hall took his time. Though announcements said that show would start at 8 p.m., Daryl’s fellow Philly BFF Todd Rundgren (sorry, John), who has appeared multiple times on Daryl’s House, came onstage 30 minutes early and commandeered the band for a full hour. Not just a “front act,” for sure, with more than a dozen songs.

Full disclosure. I had no idea the impact that Rundgren had on rock and popular music, and was only familiar with his slower, more commercially accessible hits “Hello It’s Me” (1972), “Can We Still be Friends” (1978), and “I Saw the Light” (1972). Just today, as I write this, I’m stunned to find out that with his former band Utopia he co-wrote “Love is the Answer,” catapulted in the charts by the version of England Dan and John Ford Coley.

I genuinely was happy to see many gray hairs in the audience singing along to his rock collection. Utopia and Rundgen’s earlier albums seemed to have staked a deep claim in many hearts through generations. His particular cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” was soul-stirring (I was only familiar with the Robert Palmer release), but that does nothing to indicate the diverse range of musical styles that influenced his compositions. Listening to him that night was like his version of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, straddling the worlds of classic rock, pop ballads, and experimental tripping.

The man of the hour entered his House at half-past eight with his trademark jacket and cowboy hat. The band played the most recognizable over-40-second intro to any song.  “Maneater,” the biggest hit of Hall and now estranged Oates, which shook up the Arena. I tried to shake off the sense that it was a little rude to your ex to start with that, and wondered how the entire Daryl House tour could legally get away with claiming to be a single parent to a stream of hits sired so publicly with a long-time partner. On top of that, many of the band members were intrinsic to the Hall and Oates sound.

But as one hit played after the other, with a smattering of Hall’s own compositions as solo artist, I have to admit that my missing John Oates was for purely sentimental, hanging-on-to-the-past reasons. The renditions morphed from pop songs on the radio to cooler, funkier, back-to-basics arrangements, with musicians that had the best time playing, while playing, and playing off each other. Which is the best part of watching a live concert. Of course, a singer changes register when the notes can’t be managed in a live concert with the same robustness as the recorded version. Age has less to do with it than preserving one’s vocal cords. But Daryl and his band were in total sync with “Say it Isn’t So,” “Out of Touch,” and “Sara Smile,” the last one with a thoroughly enjoyable extended play by lead guitarist Shane Theriot.

When at the piano, Hall proudly reminded the audience that he composed the Paul Young chart-topper “Everytime You Go Away.” Now it was the turn of long-time sax collaborator Charlie DeChant to shine. It may not be an exaggeration to say that DeChant contributed significantly to the success of many Hall and Oates hits.

The evening had many highlights. Rundgren returned for a pair of duets with Hall: his own “Can We Still be Friends” and Hall’s “Wait for Me,” turning the Arena into the biggest karaoke club. The encore was generous, with “Kiss on My List” in a mash up — okay, medley — with “Private Eyes.”

But the rousing point of the evening was an eight-minute “I Can’t Go for That” like you’ve never heard before. There was call-and-response between guitar and sax, gospel-like tones of percussionist Porter Carroll, Jr., and riff upon riff of “No No Nos” that had me head-bopping like The Kiffness’ “Vibe Cat” in a jazz club. (Please look that up!)

So where to from here? What does John Oates get out of Daryl Hall’s House party of mutual friends that he hasn’t been invited to, where they gather round and sing songs that are a part of his DNA? (Looks like I haven’t moved on, after all.) Time will tell if a civil reconciliation is in their future. Meanwhile, we learn to manage our expectations about the inevitability of change. That people grow old and outgrow each other. That you can’t expect those who rocked your world 30, 40 years ago to sound the same, look the same, be the same. Relationships come and go, betrayal may always be in the offing, and that Kath has nine more lives away from Niel. But one thing’s for sure. No matter how much Todd Rundgren has blown his fans’ minds with his songs, he has to stop wearing a vest without a shirt.