Saratoga Springs

Review: Hall & Oates and Squeeze — nostalgic night at SPAC as the hits just kept coming

Daryl Hall, left, and John Oates perform on stage with their band Sunday night at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
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Daryl Hall, left, and John Oates perform on stage with their band Sunday night at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

By Kirsten Ferguson

The Delta variant may be on the rise, but you wouldn’t know that from the size of the SPAC crowd on Sunday night, a Baby Boomer-heavy, mostly mask-less audience that crowded the venue’s amphitheater and lawn for Squeeze and Hall & Oates — a show rescheduled from last August.

Although both bands came to prominence during the 1970s and ’80s, sonically they couldn’t be more different. Squeeze distinguished themselves as one of the greatest British new wave bands — bristling, wry and weird — while Hall & Oates pioneered a massively successful mix of smooth pop, American rock and blue-eyed soul.

But what the two groups share, aside from an audience in the same general age range, is a wide catalogue of hits, and this concert did not disappoint in that regard.

From Squeeze’s opening number of the hard charging “Take Me I’m Yours” to the final encore of Hall & Oates’ upbeat classic “You Make My Dreams [Come True],” there wasn’t a dead tune in the lot, just a three-hour, joyous parade of chart-toppers.

Squeeze — a seven-piece current lineup — opened with a cavalcade of sharp, irrepressible numbers, starting with the forceful jaunt of “Take Me I’m Yours,” “Up the Junction” and “Is that Love.” Lead singer and guitarist Glenn Tilbrook — flanked by Chris Difford, with whom he formed the band in 1973 — wore a small man bun and a dapper gray suit.

The synth-heavy “Slap and Tickle,” a song going back to 1979, dripped with the seediness of its theme, and a manic beat marched the song to a frenzy. Colorful beach chairs and melting ice cream filled the backdrop during “Pulling Mussels,” a song with a sunny melody but not-so-innocent lyrics.

After more than a year without major in-person cultural events, live music still feels like a gift, and the Squeeze set — rounded out with “Cool for Cats,” “Tempted,” “If I Didn’t Love You,” and “Black Coffee in Bed” — was pure joy.

Hall & Oates had no smaller number of classic tunes to share, although frontman Daryl Hall had something to get off his chest first: apparently the singer, who lives nearby in the Hudson Valley, despised his recent stay at the Albany Hilton so much that he spent several minutes onstage lambasting it.

It was a momentary buzzkill for a crowd that came to have fun, but Hall and his longtime musical partner John Oates (and their six-piece band) soon rectified it with a set that hit many high notes. After opening with early ’80s Billboard hits “Maneater” “Out of Touch” and “Say It Isn’t So,” they did a cover of Barry Mann’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which felt unnecessary. However, they quickly got their groove back with white-soul classics “She’s Gone” and “Sara Smile.”

Hall, dressed in a sleek black leather jacket and blue-tinted glasses — his still-thick blonde hair looking windswept — sat at the piano for the latter song, followed by the more obscure “Is It a Star.” “Back Together Again,” a tune of John’s, had a Curtis Mayfield feel, and the main set closed with the shuffling “I Can’t Go for That [No Can Do],” one of the best dance-floor tunes ever written.

Their set felt a bit short, but Hall & Oates left fans satisfied with an encore that covered a quartet of their biggest songs: “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes,” and “You Make My Dreams.”

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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